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Coroner Calls US Friendly Fire Death of British Soldier in Iraq 'Unlawful'


A British coroner has determined that the death of a British soldier in 2003 by fire from a U.S. plane in Iraq was unlawful and criminal.

The coroner, who conducted an inquest into the death of Lance Corporal Matty Hull, said the attack on the soldier's convoy was entirely avoidable. A U.S. A-10 "tank buster" plane fired on the convoy near the southern Iraqi city of Basra after mistaking its orange markings for Iraqi missile launchers. Four other British soldiers were injured.

The coroner also criticized the United States for failing to cooperate with his inquiry and said he does not believe he got all the evidence needed to complete his probe.

Britain's Defense Ministry, in a statement, expressed regret for the confusion and the upset caused by the handling of a cockpit video of the attack and pledged to carefully consider the coroner's comments.

The British newspaper The Sun leaked a copy of the recording. In it, one U.S. pilot realizing the mistake said, "We're in jail, dude." The other was heard weeping and using an expletive.

Hull's widow, Susan, appealed to President Bush Thursday to help investigators obtain a complete report on what happened in the cockpit on the day of the attack.

She said that 11 lines of the U.S. report on the incident were blanked out and urged that they be turned over to the coroner.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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