Friday, February 09, 2007

Another "Snatch"

The Times is reporting that several British troops "are believed to have been injured" in two near-simultaneous attacks which today struck in Basra today.

One incident is said to have involved a roadside bomb striking a British convoy south of Basra, causing a number of casualties. The BBC website is saying that one soldier has been killed and three others are injured. One is in a critical condition. All three have been airlifted by helicopter to the hospital at Basra air station.

The Associated Press calls the vehicle an "armoured personnel carrier" - as does The Daily Telegraph (nice one, really helpful, that) but a photograph (above left) of the scene shows a damaged "Snatch" Land Rover, the caption reporting four soldiers "injured". The BBC report on the fatality thus looks to be accurate, and it is confirmed by the MoD.

Other reports indicate that the attack took place around 1pm local time at an intersection about three miles south-east of Basra. An updated BBC report confirms that the men were all travelling in a "Snatch" Land Rover, which it describes as "lightly armoured vehicles".

The Times quotes "military sources" saying the target of the roadside bomb was an armoured Land Rover – "a vehicle considered vulnerable to attack, and subsequently being used less and less than the heavily armoured personnel carriers which provide more protection." However, as the picture (above right) - and the many others we have published recently on this blog - shows, these vehicles are still in widespread use.

As to the other attack, this was a mortar or rocket attack on the Basra Palace complex. A Times reporter in Basra witnessed a medical helicopter flying from the city centre to Basra airport, where the main military hospital is based. Usually, the paper says, military helicopters do not fly in Basra in daylight as it is too dangerous – a rule which is only broken in emergency situations.

In two areas, therefore, where British troops are known to be vulnerable, insurgents have again struck to cause death and injury. However, since this is clearly not "friendly fire" by the Americans, one expects it will get minimal media coverage. Nor do we expect the media to ask what happened to the Mastiff mine and blast protected vehicles, which were supposed to be in place by now.

Meanwhile, after this, Sue Smith, whose son Phillip Hewett was killed near Basra in July 2005, is according to The Independent, planning to take legal action against the Ministry of Defence over its failure to protect combat troops with the right equipment.

She says military commanders are exposing soldiers to unnecessary danger by continuing to use ageing "Snatch" Land Rovers instead of armoured vehicles. "I want them to accept that Snatch Land Rovers should not be used on patrol. These vehicles are death traps," she says.

The Army has refused to launch a board of inquiry into the circumstances of Hewett's death – in an incident where two of his colleagues also died – describing it as an unavoidable "accident".

Yet the inquest in Oxford heard that the three men were dispatched to al Amarah in a "Snatch" Land Rover, even though just weeks earlier a roadside bomb had killed two soldiers near the town.

Mrs Smith said the Army told her that the men were hit by a previously unseen kind of explosive which would have penetrated even a heavily armoured Warrior vehicle. But photographs submitted to the inquest showed that the bomb entered the Land Rover through a window protected by nothing more than a steel mesh.
Said Mrs Smith, "There has been no proper investigation and the truth still hasn't come out. It took 19 months to get the inquest, and all I have to show for it is a three-page report and a patronising letter from the Army saying it was an accident."

According to Mrs Smith at least 20 servicemen have been killed in "Snatch" Land Rovers by roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan since her son's death. She said: "I just want the Army to stop using these bloody vehicles. How many more people will have to die for them to change their minds?"



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