Soldiers mother blames MOD for deaths

here: (apologies if posted elsewhere)
Daily Telegraph said:
Soldier's mother blames MoD for deaths
By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:01am GMT 30/01/2007

Three soldiers would still be alive today if the Ministry of Defence had purchased adequately protected vehicles, the mother of a dead private said yesterday.

The controversy over the Army's continued use of the lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rovers is expected to flare up again today when the inquest opens into the deaths in Iraq of Pte Phillip Hewett, 2nd Lt Richard Shearer and Pte Leon Spicer.

Sue Smith, Pte Hewett's mother, said yesterday that she wanted to know why the troops had been put in the Snatch when two months earlier in the same town of Amarah another soldier had been killed by a roadside bomb while also in a Snatch.

advertisementWith scores of heavily armoured Warriors available, she also wants to know why her son, 21, from the Staffordshire Regiment, was sent out on patrol in an "inadequately protected vehicle".

A three-page Military Police report investigating the bombing said that Warriors were not used because heavily armoured vehicles annoyed local residents. Following the bombing, which happened just before midnight, all further operations and patrols were carried out in Warriors.

A copy of the report, seen by this newspaper, said: "Warriors are sometimes used but are recognised as antagonising to the local population." It added that the Snatch vehicles had "a form of armour".

"I don't think that was a valid reason for three people to be dead," Mrs Smith said. "I then asked the MoD about it and they just sent me patronising letters. As far as we are concerned the Warriors should have been used from the day Guardsman Anthony Wakefield was killed two months earlier.

"The MoD has admitted it was looking at better vehicles which it has now got but they have come too late and people are still dying in Snatches." John Mackenzie, the lawyer for the families, said that it was "extraordinary" that the "unprotected" Snatch vehicles were being used for what were clearly combat patrols to deter insurgents who were daily bombarding Camp Abu Naji with rockets and mortars.

The Snatch Land Rover was originally designed to deal with riots during the Troubles in Northern Ireland offering protection against blast devices, petrol bombs and some small arms.

They are still used in Iraq to patrol the narrow streets of Basra where no other vehicle could go or in the less hostile southern area of the city. But with 23 soldiers killed inside Snatches since 2003, Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, urgently ordered new allegedly bomb-proof vehicles shortly after he replaced John Reid last summer. By next month, commanders will have at least 20 out of an order of 100 of the robust Mastiff armoured vehicles and soldiers in Afghanistan will start receiving the first of 166 Vector off-road armoured vehicles.

Troops in Basra are already operating in the "up-armoured" Bulldog armoured personnel carriers.

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