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'ARMY HAS TWISTED A KNIFE IN MY HEART'.

Byline: By Lucy Ballinger Wales on Sunday

The grieving father of a Welsh soldier killed in Iraq says claims the Army knew his son was trapped by an angry mob have 'twisted the knife' into his already broken heart.

Thomas Keys was one of six British Redcaps who died at the hands of Iraqi insurgents while reinforcements were under a mile away. But his father says Army documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act this weekend claim a British officer was told the nearby soldiers were trapped at the police station, but they were left to their own fate.

'It twists the knife in one's grief - you can't move on,' said dad Reg Keys, of Llanuwchllyn, near Bala, last night. 'It beggars belief. It just makes it all the more harder to bear.

'Especially because of the way they were shot. To know that he went through all that, and possibly could have been saved, is torture.'

Fitness fanatic Thomas, 20, joined the Army as a cadet at the age of 16 and served as a paratrooper in Jamaica and Sierra Leone before transferring to the Royal Military Police.

He was the youngest of six Royal Military Policemen killed by 400 Iraqis in a police station at Al Majar Al Kabir, north of Basra, in June 2003.

Mr Keys collapsed on the floor when Army representatives called at his Bala home to break the news to him and wife Sally of Thomas' death.

The RMPs had gone to the town to train Iraqi police, but their visit coincided with growing local resentment at the patrolling tactics of the Parachute Regiment.

Apparently, neither of the forces knew the other was in the town, and the RMPs weren't warned of the danger.

Hundreds of British soldiers were sent in to rescue the Paras. But the Redcap soldiers - under a mile away - were left trapped. The families allege they were led to believe the army didn't know of their situation until after they were killed.

But Mr Keys says FOI papers released to him claim the British Army was told by a local doctor that soldiers trapped in the police station were still alive but they didn't order a rescue attempt.

'I believe we were lied to by omission,' said Mr Keys. 'They knew the truth but kept it from us for 12 months. They are embarrassed there was no rescue attempt.

'Those people who failed on the ground should be disciplined.'

Last year the official inquiry concluded the attack on the Redcaps 'could not reasonably have been predicted' and nobody was to blame. But Mr Keys believes the question of a possible rescue was brushed over.

He said: 'The Army was only a mile away from Thomas with a response force. They need to explain to me why they didn't go in, not hide behind a board of inquiry.

'I asked for a meeting two months ago to explain why the Army didn't make any effort to rescue my son. I think if they have a good reason, let's hear it, face-to-face. But the Army have denied my request.'

Mr Keys and two of the other fathers of soldiers killed in the attack have also written to Defence Secretary John Reid to ask for a meeting about the revelations.

He said: 'We want to know what went on, and we want answers.'

Last night a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: 'The board of inquiry clearly established the 1 Para soldiers were not aware of the presence of the six RMP soldiers. Had they known, there is no question they would have attempted their rescue.' Praying Richard will quit: Reg and Sally Keys will welcome home their second soldier son tomorrow in the hope he will quit the Army.

Red Cap Thomas' younger brother Richard, 21, has completed his three-year stint in the Royal Engineers, but is deciding whether to sign up for a further five years.

His parents worry he could suffer the same fate as Thomas if he stays in the Army.

'We are very conscious of the fact that a young man of 21 years of age has to make his own mind up and we can't pressurise Richard in any way whatsoever,' said Mr Keys.

'He is due home on Monday. Then he has to make a decision as to whether to sign on, or indeed sign off.

'Personally, my wife and I would like him to possibly leave, but it has to be his decision.'

The couple put their home up for sale in July to give Richard the chance to start a new life outside the armed forces.

They hope a move would give their son more job prospects as opportunities were limited for him in North Wales. But four months later the three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Bala is still on the market.

The couple have been forced to knock pounds 60,000 off the original price of pounds 425,000 because they received no offers on the house. WoS SAYS: Richard Keys returns to Wales tomorrow with a big decision to make.

For his parents Reg and Sally, it is bound to be an emotional day.

Tears of joy at seeing their second soldier son safe and sound. But there will be tears of despair for the son who never came home alive.
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 4, 2005
Words:892
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