20 January 2009
The MoD has launched an investigation into the deaths of two servicemen following accusations of friendly fire.
Military police are investigating the deaths of a soldier and Royal Marine from last week, after the servicemen's positions came under heavy mortar fire during an operation against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Danish and Afghan Army fighting groups were in the area when the fatal explosion occurred.
This is "normal procedure when a fatality occurs," an MoD statement said.
"This investigation will take time to conclude since it involves talking to those involved, some of whom are injured, and needs to consider a multitude of technical issues," the statement continued.
"This also involves visiting the scene of the incident, which due to bad weather and the fact that it is in a high threat area, will inevitably take time.
According to the MoD the attack was complex and conducted " under cover of darkness and in an area made up of a complex web of buildings, walls, irrigation ditches and farmland".
They "carried out a heavy bombardment of an enemy position using a variety of weapons," an MoD spokesperson said.
Complex attacks during times of poor visibility often lead to miscommunications on the battlefield and rapidly changing circumstances which raise the chances of friendly fire. It is unclear how much information Danish and Afghan troops had on the wherabouts of British forces.
Last year four British servicemen died as a result of friendly fire in Afghanistan according to a critical report by General Sir Richard Dannatt, the chief of the general staff. Britain has in recent months begun to purchase new battlefield technologies that allow pilots to distinguish friend from foe on the ground below. This would however not be of help in close range combat.