Bomb dropped on Canadians blamed on procedural error

Thursday, June 20, 2002

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Air National Guard F-16 pilot who mistakenly bombed Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan in April did not follow proper procedures to ensure that his target was hostile, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The officials said it was possible the pilot would face judicial action, likely an Article 32 hearing under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Such a hearing is similar to a civilian grand jury.

A joint American-Canadian investigation, which included interviews with more than 70 people, concluded that the pilot, Maj. Harry Schmidt of the Illinois Air National Guard, acted in haste in dropping a 500-pound bomb on the Canadians, the officials said. They spoke on condition that they not be identified.

Schmidt told investigators he believed he was under attack from the ground and fired in self defense.

The findings of the investigation have yet to be reviewed by senior U.S. military officers, including Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S. Central Command, and the commander of Central Command air forces, Lt. Gen. Michael Moseley.

The preliminary findings were first reported in Wednesday's editions of The New York Times.

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