Tue, Jul 24, 2007 - Page 6 News List

British lawmakers launch probe into troops' capture

AFP , LONDON

A British parliamentary committee is holding a wide-ranging secret inquiry into the capture of 15 British troops by Iran earlier this year, the Independent reported yesterday.

Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper said that the House of Commons Defence Committee had already begun hearing evidence in a closed-doors session last week, and will issue its report within weeks.

The 15 sailors and marines were seized on March 23 near the Shatt al-Arab waterway which divides Iran and Iraq, and were released nearly two weeks later.

Last month, a report by the former head of the Royal Marines, Lieutenant General Sir Rob Fulton, found the capture was down to no individual human error, but a series of shortcomings.

"We are not blaming Lieutenant General Fulton for the report he provided, the general public were not aware that the Ministry of Defence had put binding strictures on him," a source close to the inquiry said. "Our job is to explore the avenues that he was denied."

An unidentified senior source, meanwhile, told the paper: "The Commons Defence will be concentrating on the Fulton report."

The source said the committee was also concerned about the ministry's decision to allow the sailors and marines to sell their stories to the British press.

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