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Friendly fire deaths require full inquiry, quick response



Published: Mon, April 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The United States owes Canada a full explanation of exactly how four Canadian soldiers came to be victims of friendly fire in Afghanistan.

And while such investigations take time, speed in this matter is of the essence. Already there is discussion by some Canadians about whether their Army should remain a part of the allied force in Afghanistan. The longer it takes for an explanation, the louder the voices of opposition will become.

Without an explanation, the pain some Canadians are feeling will turn to anger, public opinion against further Canadian involvement could crystallize. The last thing the United States needs right now is the loss of an ally in the war against terrorism.

Accountability issue

American fighting forces are working under dangerous and stressful conditions in Afghanistan, but, even so, someone along the chain of command someone must be held to account when soldiers die needlessly.

In this case, an American F-16 pilot mistakenly dropped a 500-pound bomb on Canadian troops during a training exercise, killing four and wounding eight. The soldiers were members of the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, which is headquartered at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.

U.S. officials say the pilot thought he was under attack from the Canadians and was acting in self-defense when he dropped the laser-guided bomb.

Somewhere, there was a breakdown. American forces should have known the Canadians were training in the area. The question that must be answered is why that information wasn't shared with the pilot. Where did the breakdown occur? Who is responsible?

It is important to answer these questions and to take appropriate action not only for the sake of grieving Canadians, but to help avoid more friendly fire deaths as the operations in Afghanistan continue.




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