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British troops accuse U.S. "cowboy" pilot

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LONDON (Reuters) - British soldiers wounded by "friendly fire" in Iraq say their convoy was hit by a U.S. aircraft and one of them called the pilot a "cowboy" with no regard for human life, the Times has reported.

The Times carried accounts by the survivors which tallied with earlier media reports that an American A10 "tankbuster" plane had strafed a convoy of British armoured vehicles.

British authorities said on Saturday they were investigating the incident south of the Iraqi city of Basra, in which one British soldier was killed and five were injured.

"You've got an A10 with advanced technology and he can't use a thermal sight to identify whether a tank is a friend or a foe. It's ridiculous," the newspaper quoted Lance Corporal Steven Gerrard as saying from his bed on the hospital ship RFA Argus.

Gerrard said his convoy had approached a group of Iraqi civilians waving white flags when the plane attacked them.

"There was a boy no more than 12 years old. He was no more than 20 metres (66 ft) away when the Yank opened up," he was quoted as saying. "He had absolutely no regard for human life. I believe he was a cowboy."

Gerrard said the U.S. aircraft had made two sweeps over the five-vehicle convoy of Scimitar light reconnaissance tanks and was less than 500 metres away when the pilot opened fire.

"We can identify a friendly vehicle from 1,500 metres," he said.

The Times said first two Scimitars in the convoy exploded into flames and one of the crew did not manage to escape.

Britain has so far lost 24 troops in the Iraq war. Five have been killed in action, 14 in accidents and five in so-called "friendly fire" incidents, killed by their own side in the conflict.


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