Army inquiry after Paras use Corbyn face for target practice
ARMY chiefs yesterday launched an investigation into an ‘utterly unacceptable’ video of British soldiers using an image of Jeremy Corbyn for target practice.
The clip showed members of the Parachute Regiment shooting at a poster of the Labour leader using non-lethal paint simulation rounds in Afghanistan.
The 25-second film, which the military believes is not a fake, then focuses on the target and zooms in on an image of Mr Corbyn’s face dotted with paint shots.
At least one of the soldiers, all of whom are wearing the Parachute Regiment’s distinctive maroon berets, can be heard laughing in the background.
The video was posted on the online messaging service Snapchat with the caption ‘Happy with that’ before being circulated on WhatsApp and then on Twitter by a serving member of the Royal Navy.
It was taken several days ago at a firing range in Kabul where soldiers carry out ‘guardian angel’ drills to prepare for protecting senior officials visiting the Afghan capital.
Mr Corbyn said: ‘I’m shocked that this sort of thing has happened. I hope the Ministry of Defence will conduct an inquiry into it and find out what was going on and who did that.’
Theresa May’s spokesman said the Prime Minister was aware of the video but had not seen it, and described the incident as ‘clearly unacceptable’.
Senior military officers were said to be furious and launched an investigation into five serving members of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, known as 3 Para.
Brigadier Nick Perry, commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, said: ‘The Army is conducting a full investigation – this is a serious error of judgment.
‘We want to get to the bottom of what happened. The Army is, and always will be, an apolitical organisation.’
He added the 400 British soldiers in Afghanistan were doing an ‘outstanding job’. The troops help protect UK and coalition advisers to the local military.
It is understood the paratroopers involved will soon return to their barracks in Colchester as their tour is coming to an end.
At an event in 2012 Mr Corbyn, a veteran socialist, said it would be ‘ wonderful’ to scrap the Armed Forces.
More recently, speaking after the decision to prosecute a former paratrooper over the Bloody Sunday killings in 1972, he said veterans in their 60s and 70s who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles should not be given an amnesty.
Soldiers are not meant to use posters of celebrities or politicians in target practice, but sources said the paratroopers had not committed a crime. They would be likely face a slap on the wrist rather than a more severe punishment, it was said.
One defence source said: ‘It’s hardly surprising soldiers don’t like him [Mr Corbyn] given that he has called for the abolition of the Army.’
Defence minister Tobias Ellwood told Sky News the video illustrated that discipline had broken down, adding: ‘Action must be taken to make sure that doesn’t happen again.’ Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘I commend the prompt and clear leadership shown by the Army in investigating this troubling video.’
An Army spokesman said: ‘This behaviour is totally unacceptable and falls well below the high standards the Army expects.’ Conservative MP Rory Stewart, the prisons minister, told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire it was ‘outrageous behaviour’, adding: ‘ They should not be political – they are there to defend the country and the Queen.’
Labour MP Dan Jarvis, a former paratrooper, said the incident was ‘shameful and utterly unacceptable’. Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, a former lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, described the video as ‘disgraceful’.
Tim Young, leader of the Labour Group at Colchester Borough Council, said the target practice video was ‘totally inappropriate’.
He added: ‘We are obviously appalled by the video showing the troops doing what they did.
‘I have spoken to the garrison commander, who was equally upset. He promised me that tough action will be taken.’
Taking aim: A still from a video in which troops fire paint rounds at a poster of Jeremy Corbyn, pictured left with shot marks