British spy plane crash victims repatriated
London, Sept 12: The bodies of 14 British service personnel who died in an RAF Nimrod spy plane crash in Afghanistan were flown back to Britain today.
A ceremony for the victims was held at RAF Kinloss air base in Scotland, where their coffins were transferred to waiting hearses.
Defence Secretary Des Brown, who attended the repatriation, said they were ''outstanding, brave and dedicated men.'' ''They were working towards making Afghanistan a safe and secure place as well as protecting our nation and its interests. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude for that.'' Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup said the families of the deceased bore the ''greatest burden of grief''.
''This country owes not just the honoured dead but also those whom they have left behind an enormous debt of gratitude.'' The pilot of the spy plane had reported a fire on board shortly before it crashed in Afghanistan on September 2.
NATO and British officials have said crash appeared to have been an accident and have dismissed claims by Taliban guerrillas that they shot down the aircraft.
Last week Channel 4 news, quoting unnamed military sources in Afghanistan, said the crew reported a fire on board soon after completing routine air-to-air refuelling.
The crew made an emergency radio call and the plane went into a steep descent in an attempt to make an emergency landing at an air base in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, it said.
The crash was Britain's worst single loss during its current deployment in Afghanistan.