Published:
September 28, 2016
My army troops killed four innocent civilians, admits Burnham's MP

Former army officer and Burnham-On-Sea MP James Heappey has this week revealed how his troops killed four innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

It comes as he supports a brand new campaign to end the 'witch hunt' against British soldiers.

Mr Heappey said the decision made on that day in 2005 was necessary to protect troops as he urged for the controversial Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT) to be shut down.

He claims it is now only a matter of time before a soldier is killed through hesitating in battle because of ambulance-chasing lawyers who are hounding soldiers with spurious claims at the taxpayers expense.

"No matter how much judgemental training is done and no matter how much commanders encourage their troops to trust their instincts; it will not be long before an 18 year old soldier hesitates over pulling the trigger because a future run in with Leigh Day crosses his mind at that instant. His enemy will not hesitate and the outcome could be fatal," he said in a national newspaper interview this week.

The former officer revealed how his unit opened fire on a car that was speeding towards their position as they were trying to secure the area after two suicide bombers drove into German, Greek and Nato convoys.

Mr Heappey nearly died himself afterwards because the Taliban placed bombs in the area they knew that troops would retreat back to – but it was detected by a sniffer dog.

It was later revealed that the people killed in the car were four civilians who were high on drugs and panicked when they saw military vehicles in the area and wanted to speed away.

But Mr Heappey argues that in the context of training and the events of that day, it was reasonably to perceive the threat as real and that not making that split-second decision could have led to the death of dozens of troops.

He added: "In the cold light of day, we killed some innocent civilians that afternoon in Kabul. But in the context of the training exercises we’d done when vehicle borne IEDs were driven at cordon positions; in the context of the ignored calls for them to stop the car; in the context of the two suicide bombings that had gone immediately before; the threat was perceived to be real, immediate and lethal."

The revelation comes as the bill for the controversial inquiry, set up to investigate claims of wrongdoing on the battlefield, rises to nearly £60million - the wage bill for around four infantry battalions, according to Mr Heappey.

It is expected to last until 2019 and taxpayers have been footing the bill as lawyers from controversial firms such as Leigh Day have made a fortune pursuing soldiers for alleged human rights abuses.

Generals and former soldiers alike have condemned the inquiry, which led to Sergeant Alexander Blackman being jailed for killing a dying Taliban insurgent.

Talking of his training, Mr Heappey added: "It was supposed to empower us to defend ourselves and achieve our mission rather than to constrain us and make us worry about the ambulance chasing lawyers at Leigh Day."

Three former generals and war hero Lord Bramall this week called for the inquiry to be wrapped up and warned the long-term impact of relentless probes would be 'disastrous'.

Their damning verdicts follow a campaign to end a witch-hunt which has seen hundreds of soldiers quizzed over their actions a decade ago and dragged through repeated probes on one incident alone.

Speaking publicly on the issue for the first time, General Sir Michael Rose, one of Britain's most respected generals and a former SAS commander, told one national newspaper this week: "We should bring a halt to these historic investigations. This includes those relating to the counter-terrorist war fought against the IRA. I therefore applaud the Mail's campaign."

Lord Bramall, 92, one of the UK's most decorated military heroes – who was cleared of baseless paedophile allegations – also hit out at the witch-hunt.

The field marshal said: "This witch-hunt culture is terribly bad for the morale of the forces who have had to do their duty under difficult circumstances."

The Iraq Historical Allegations Team (Ihat) is investigating 1,668 claims of wrongdoing in a £57million probe expected to last until the end of 2019. As well, Operation Northmoor, set up in March 2014, is investigating more than 550 historic allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan.

No 10 has refused to rule out that soldiers fighting in future wars could be hounded in the same way – and suggested Operation Northmoor could roll on for years.

Three former generals and war hero Lord Bramall have called for an end to the witch-hunt against British troops.

Asked about future theatres of conflict and 'guarantees' troops wouldn't be treated in the same way, a spokesman for Theresa May said: "I can't predict what is going to happen in the future. I am not going to be drawn on what we would be doing in the future on battlefield cases."

 

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