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Canada: U.S. Will Decide Fate of Pilot

June 20, 2002

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TORONTO (AP) _ Canada has no say in whether to prosecute an American F-16 pilot who accidentally bombed Canadian troops in Afghanistan, killing four soldiers, Defense Minister John McCallum said Wednesday.

``Ultimately it’s up to the Americans to decide what action if any to take against any American,″ he told reporters outside Parliament in reaction to reports that a preliminary U.S. investigation found that Maj. Harry Schmidt failed to follow proper procedure in the April 17 bombing.

Schmidt reportedly failed to take enough time to assess the threat before dropping a 500-pound bomb on Canadians troops conducting a nighttime exercise.

Maurice Baril, a retired general who heads the Canadian board of inquiry, said in a statement that following the media reports he decided to present his report to McCallum on Wednesday ``so as not to have its integrity and findings compromised.″

But the report only will be made public at the same time as a report from a separate U.S.-Canadian investigation, probably in late June or early July.

Relatives of the soldiers killed in the accident said they were saddened by the news, but also expected it.

Joyce Clooney, whose grandson Pvt. Ricky Green died in the accidental bombing, said the report confirmed what she and others suspected _ that the pilot acted improperly.

``I always felt sure the Canadians were in the proper place,″ Clooney said from her home in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. ``The pilot just made the decision quickly. I’m not angry, but we’re hurt. We trusted that Ricky would be safe over there.″

Suzanne Leger, the aunt of killed Sgt. Marc Leger, said nothing will change the result of the accident.

``Marc’s not going to walk in the door tomorrow because this pilot is prosecuted or people are still investigating the issue,″ she said from her home in Lancaster, Ontario. ``People have to understand it happened in a war zone.″

Maureen Decaire, whose son, Cpl. Brian Decaire, was injured in the bombing, expressed sympathy for Schmidt.

``He didn’t do this on purpose,″ she said from Winnipeg. ``He may have not followed procedure and quite possibly deserves to be punished for that. But do I want to see him flogged? No.″

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