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Mon, Apr 10, 2006

Pilot Sues Air Force Over Friendly Fire Bombing

Says Release Of Reprimand Ruined His Career

A pilot involved in a 2002 friendly fire bombing in Afghanistan that killed four Canadian soldiers and injured eight others is suing the US Air Force, claiming military officials ruined his reputation as a pilot by releasing a letter of reprimand for the incident.

National Guard Major Harry Schmidt's lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court, accuses the Air Force of violating privacy laws by releasing the letter of reprimand he received in the wake of the bombing.

"The government flat-out failed to comply with their agreement," said Schmidt's attorney, Charles Gittins, to the Associated Press. Gittins added the July 2004 disclosure of the reprimand also violated the settlement agreement that kept Schmidt from receiving a court-martial over the accidental attack.

Schmidt was one of two F-16 pilots who mistook muzzle flashes from Canadian forces engaged in target practice exercises near Kandahar airport on the night of April 17, 2002, for Taliban forces.

Believing them to be the enemy, Schmidt dropped a 500-lb laser-guided bomb on the Canadian soldiers. He maintains his superiors never told him the Canadians would be conducting live-fire exercises that night.

The second pilot involved in the attack also received a letter of reprimand, and was allowed to retire from the Guard. He is not named in the lawsuit.

An Air Force spokeswoman told the AP "at this point, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the case," adding she had not yet seen the lawsuit.

FMI: www.af.mil

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