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Brits Say Fuel Leak Likely Caused 2006 Nimrod Explosion

Accident Over Afghanistan Claimed 14

British Defense Secretary Des Browne told parliament Tuesday the mid-air explosion of a 38-year-old Nimrod MR2 over Afghanistan in September 2006 was most likely caused by a fuel leak.

Browne's comments followed the release of a report from an official inquiry.

"The fire was likely the result of some escaped fuel that ignited," Browne said, adding  "we are unable to identify with absolute certainty the cause."

As ANN reported, all 14 servicemen aboard died when the aircraft exploded inflight. The aircraft had conducted air-to-air refueling shortly before fires were reported; witnesses say they saw a small fire near the back of the Nimrod, before the conflagration enveloped the aircraft.

Browne told lawmakers the age of some parts may have contributed to the incident, that the Ministry of Defence has taken action to prevent a similar accident. He added the RAF's remaining Nimrods will keep flying, despite evidence of fuel leaks throughout the aging fleet.

Bloomberg reports the conclusion may increase pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour government to address some have called an inadequate defense budget to support conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Conservative party's Shadow Defence Minister, Gerald Howarth, charged after 40 fire-related incidents a year for the past 20 years, and 52 leaks in a six-month period last year, the manufacturer and the RAF were "acutely aware of the potential hazards arising from the Nimrod's aging systems."

FMI: www.raf.mod.uk, www.mod.uk/defenceinternet/home

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