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US Army Finds No Criminal Negligence in Friendly Fire Death of Former Football Star

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Pentagon investigations into the friendly fire death of a former U.S. football star in Afghanistan have found no criminal negligence by soldiers involved in the incident. However, investigators have recommended that nine officers, including four generals, be held accountable for critical errors made in reporting the death and failing to provide accurate details to the family. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Washington.

In April of 2004, former National Football League player Pat Tillman was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

His death received worldwide attention because he had turned down a multi-million dollar contract to play American football in order to join the elite Army Rangers after the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Initially U.S. military officials said Corporal Tillman died during a heroic attack on enemy Taleban fighters. A memorial service for Tillman was nationally televised across the United States.

However, weeks after his death, the Army told Tillman's family that soldiers in his own unit had shot and killed him by mistake - a case of fratricide, or friendly fire. An Afghan soldier was also killed during the incident.

Results of investigations released by the Defense Department Monday say the deaths were accidental.

However, the department's acting inspector general, Thomas Gimble, says while there was no broad cover-up, military officers looking into the incident passed along misleading and inaccurate information and delayed reporting that Tillman was killed by friendly fire.

"Overall, our review concluded that Corporal Tillman's chain of command made critical errors in the reporting and assigning investigative jurisdiction in the days following his death and bear the ultimate responsibilities for the inaccuracies, misunderstandings and perceptions of concealment that led to our review," he said.

The Acting Secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, says the military failed in its duty to provide the truth, as fast as possible, to grieving families of all soldiers who have died.

"Our failure in fulfilling this duty brought discredit to the Army and compounded the grief suffered by the Tillman family," he said. "For that, on behalf of the Army, I apologize to the Tillman family. But words are not sufficient. We are taking corrective action and requiring accountability."

Geren says the Army will not withdraw Tillman's Silver Star award, even though some of the information used to justify it was inaccurate.

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