Sun, Nov 07, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Families of dead British soldiers lash out at Blair

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Relatives of the three soldiers of the British Black Watch regiment killed in Iraq have lashed out at the UK government's decision to send them into a more dangerous zone.

The younger brother of Private Paul Lowe, 19, a Black Watch soldier himself who only recently returned from Basra, said his "brother, comrade and friend" had died in a war over "oil and money" and demanded his regiment return home.

Private Scott McArdle's uncle condemned Tony Blair and George W. Bush for sending the troops into a "death trap."

Privates Lowe and McArdle, 22, and Sergeant Stuart Gray, 31, were killed by a suicide car bomber as they inspected vehicles by the roadside a few miles from their new camp south of Baghdad on Thursday. They had been there just a few days and had been due to fly home last month after serving six months in the area.

Martin McArdle said he feared the situation would become another Vietnam and that the conflict was "George Bush's war." Of Blair, he said: "I just hope he can live with himself."

Private Craig Lowe, 18, said: "I think we should get them all out of there anyway, if not there's going to be a lot more of them like this and there's going to be a lot more upset people. Paul told us he would hopefully be home for Christmas but now we are just going to have to try to deal with what happened."

The UK defense secretary, Geoff Hoon, was furious at a claim he had been duplicitous in his justification of why British troops were being sent further north into the American zone. He added he did not believe the families' anger at their relatives being deployed in the more dangerous so-called Sunni "triangle of death" was justified.

Blair sent the families his "deep sympathy and condolences."

"I would also like to express my pride and gratitude to the Black Watch for the extraordinary and heroic job they are doing there, which is of crucial importance to making sure democratic elections can go ahead in Iraq," Blair added.

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