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Three British soldiers killed in Afghanistan blast
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) May 01, 2013

British sniper faces retrial for owning Iraqi gun
London (AFP) May 01, 2013 - A British special forces sniper was told Wednesday he will face a retrial after he was briefly jailed for possessing a gun given to him as a gift by Iraqi troops he helped to train.

Sergeant Danny Nightingale, 38, a veteran of the conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Northern Ireland, was sentenced to 18 months in military detention last November but freed three weeks later when judges suspended his sentence.

His case had sparked an outcry in Britain, with supporters declaring his conviction a betrayal of a war hero and member of the elite SAS regiment who has served the British army for 17 years.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition for his release.

Nightingale's conviction was quashed in March, but a judge at a military court in Bulford, southern England, ruled Wednesday that a retrial was in the public interest.

Nightingale's family said they were "bitterly disappointed" by the ruling.

Speaking outside the court, the sniper said of his ongoing legal ordeal: "I wouldn't wish it on anyone's family -- it's horrible."

Nightingale on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to illegally possessing a Glock 9mm pistol and more than 300 rounds of ammunition.

The father of two has admitted owning the gun and ammunition, but suffered a brain injury affecting his memory and claims he forgot he had them.

Iraqi soldiers gave him the weapon as a gift in 2007 before he returned home to Britain.

The gun was found in Nightingale's army accommodation while he was on tour in Afghanistan in 2010, and he was flown home and charged.

Nightingale's wife Sally led a nationwide campaign for his release, which gained the support of lawmakers and former special forces officers.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday that Britain was paying a "very high price" in Afghanistan after three soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb.

Six British soldiers have now been killed this year in Afghanistan, where British casualties have slowed over the past year.

Britain has not lost so many soldiers in one incident since six were killed by a similar blast in March last year.

The defence ministry named the men as Corporal William Thomas Savage, Fusilier Samuel Flint and Private Robert Murray Hetherington.

They received immediate medical attention at the scene of the blast in Helmand province on Tuesday and were evacuated by air to Britain's main Camp Bastion base but could not be saved, the ministry said.

The deaths take the total number of British troops killed by enemy action in Afghanistan over the 400 mark, to 401, of a total 444 who have lost their lives in the campaign begun in October 2001.

"We have paid a very high price for the work we're doing in Afghanistan," Cameron told ITV television.

"It is important work because it's vital that country doesn't again become a haven for terrorists -- terrorists that can threaten us here in the UK.

"But today our thoughts should be with the families and friends of those that have suffered."

The three soldiers' were travelling in the latest Mastiff 3 armoured vehicle when it was hit on a routine patrol in the district of Nahr-e Saraj.

The US-made all-terrain vehicle is believed to make up the biggest part of the British armed forces' 450-strong armoured patrol fleet, and has been praised for its ability to withstand bomb blasts.

Former Army chief General Richard Dannatt warned that the Taliban's success in overcoming the vehicle's defences was a worrying development.

"It would seem this was an extremely large bomb that was so powerful it was able to cause fatalities within the vehicle itself," he told BBC radio.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said he was "deeply saddened" by the news.

"It is clear from the tributes paid to them that they were exceptional men who served their country with distinction," he added.

Corporal Savage's wife Lyndsey said she had "lost the love of my life" but was "extremely proud of 'Sav' and everything that he has achieved."

It is the first time since September 2012 that British troops have been killed by a roadside bomb, which have caused many of the British deaths in Afghanistan.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Taliban militants frequently use roadside bombs against foreign troops and their Afghan allies.

The defence ministry said that security in Helmand, a hotbed of the Taliban insurgency, was improving but that it remained a risky and dangerous environment for British troops.

Afghan police and soldiers are taking over responsibility for security, but there is growing concern over the war-torn country's prospects after 2014 when all foreign combat deployments will end.

General Dannatt was asked Wednesday whether it was harder to justify the deaths given that British forces will soon withdraw from Afghanistan.

He told BBC radio: "It certainly makes deaths like these ones more painful as we are close to the end.

"Often those who we are fighting increase their efforts towards the end to try and play up the fact that they have driven us out or to increase their hand in bargaining at the negotiating table subsequently."


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Three British soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Kabul (AFP) May 1, 2013
Three NATO troops killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan were British, officials said Wednesday. The three soldiers from the Royal Highland Fusiliers died on Tuesday when their vehicle was hit on a routine patrol in the district of Nahr-e Saraj, part of the southern province Helmand. "Their deaths come as a great loss to all those serving in Task Force Helmand," army spokesman Major Ri ... read more

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