A leaked cockpit video published Tuesday captures a dramatic exchange between two American pilots whose voices choke up when they learn they have killed a British soldier in a 2003 friendly fire incident in Iraq. "I'm going to be sick. We're in jail, dude," one pilot says.
Despite British requests, the Pentagon had refused to release the video to the family of Lance Cpl. Matty Hull, who died when U.S. jets fired on his convoy in the southern city of Basra. But after excerpts of the video were published in The Sun newspaper, and the footage was widely broadcast, U.S. authorities agreed to release it for the British inquest.
Neither pilot from the Boise, Idaho-based 190th Fighter Squadron was disciplined in the U.S. military's own investigation, which concluded the pilots "followed the procedures and processes for engaging targets," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday.
The leaking of the tape strained relations between the Department of Defense and their British counterparts, who were previously given a DVD of the classified video, the AP reports.
The dramatic cockpit video and recording begins with two pilots identifying a target and checking with ground control that there are no coalition troops in the area -- to which ground control says, "That is an affirm. You are well clear of friendlies," according to the transcript released by The Sun.
Friendly fire has been a burning issue for both countries since the first Gulf War in 1991, when nine British servicemen were killed in a mistaken attack by US aircraft.
Precautions have since been taken – orange panels were fitted to allied vehicles to alert pilots during the 2003 invasion. The pilots on the tape can be heard concluding the panels were "orange rocket launchers" before opening fire.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said reports of the transcripts of the incident showed a "clear expression of remorse" from those involved, Reuters reports.
Constitutional Affairs Minister Harriet Harman today demanded that all information about L/Cpl Hull's death is released by the Americans.
Ms Harman said: "The position we have always taken, and convey in the strongest possible terms in meetings and letters to the American authorities via the US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission David Johnson, is that they should comply with all requests from the coroner.
"The difficulty is that the coroner does not have any legal powers of compulsion for anything that is outside this jurisdiction."
She added: "People do understand that, in armed conflict situations, terrible accidents do sometimes happen, but what I think people do not understand or accept is the notion that the truth should not be revealed."
Geoff Webb, the coroner's officer, said the leaked video could be used in the inquest because it is now in the public domain.
However, the publication of the material could cause a political rift with Washington, as the Americans insist it is classified.
Releasing the tape may put the lives of soldiers at risk, said David Johnson, deputy chief of mission at the US embassy, the Telegraph.co.uk reports.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
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