Inquest verdict ‘will keep soldiers safer’

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The father of a soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan believes a coroner’s recommendation will make life safer for war zone combatants.

Sam Flint-Broughton, 21, was killed alongside two comrades when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded under their Mastiff military vehicle while on patrol last year.

The device had been placed using a tunnel under the road, and was triggered from behind a 10ft wall of a nearby compound hidden in a poppy field.

Fusilier Flint-Broughton, from Poulton, died with Corporal William Savage, 30, from Penicuik, Midlothian, and Private Robert Hetherington, 25, from Edinburgh, in the blast, which was in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of the country.

During the inquest into the deaths of the soldiers held in Oxford last week, it was revealed the Mastiff used by the men had been involved in a similar explosion in 2009.

As a result, the half-ton armoured doors did not close properly.

Darren Salter, senior coroner for Oxfordshire, recorded a verdict of unlawful killing, but added he would ask the Ministry of Defence to ensure any Mastiffs being used in active service are in a good state of repair.

Fusilier Flint-Broughton’s father Dave said: “This has never been about getting compensation money, it has been about trying to make things safer for the men and women who are serving their country.

“Nothing will bring Sam back, but I have another son – David – who is serving with the Army and has been to Afghanistan and want to make sure he is safe and properly protected under fire.

“I don’t know whether it would have made a difference if the Mastiff doors had been in good repair, but I am glad the coroner is to write to the Ministry of Defence.”

Army chiefs are also to be quizzed by the coroner over the use of an experimental surveillance system, which was tracking Fusilier Flint-Broughton’s Mastiff.

Initial reports of the hit on the vehicle were dismissed as a malfunction by personnel monitoring the system.

Mr Broughton said: “A 32-vehicle convoy had just travelled over the area before the Mastiff was hit, so the staff assumed something was wrong with the system.

“The coroner is to ask questions about how the system – which is currently top secret – is operated.”

After the explosion, there was a large operation to check the route, which involved 1,000 troops.

No other tunnels were found along the route of the hightway – one of just two major roads in Afhanistan.

Now, Mr Broughton is to devote his time to campaigning against exports of fertiliser from Pakistan to Afghanistan.

“The fertiliser is being used either to grow poppies, to harvest opium, which is sold to fund terror attacks or is used directly to make explosives,” he said.

“I have spent the last 12 months campaigning for Sam and feel I must continue to do something useful to make life safer for serving soldiers.”