Army in­quiry after Paras use Cor­byn face for tar­get prac­tice

Daily Mail - - Brexit In Crisis - By Larisa Brown, Mario Led­with and Ge­orge Odling

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.’

‘Out­ra­geous be­hav­iour’

Tak­ing aim: A still from a video in which troops fire paint rounds at a poster of Jeremy Cor­byn, pic­tured left with shot marks

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