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Inquest opens into unlawful killing of Bicester-based Pioneer soldiers
SOLDIERS who survived an unexpected attack that killed two colleagues have said their base in Afghanistan should have been better protected.
Corporal Andrew Roberts, 32, and Private Ratu Silibaravi, 31, from Bicester-based 23 Pioneer Regiment, were killed when a mortar shell landed and exploded inside their forward operating base (FOB) in Helmand Province.
For Cpl Roberts, from Middlesbrough, it was his final tour of duty having been accepted for voluntary redundancy.
An inquest at Oxford’s County Hall heard yesterday that improvements had been made to the FOB’s protection since the attack on May 4 last year, including higher walls and the installation of more hard cover protection.
Pte James Gosling, from 23 Pioneer Regiment, told the inquest: “I feel that the protection within the FOB could have been of a higher standard.
“It is a shame it took an event like this for them to realise.”
Lieutenant Corporal Neil Mackie said that he returned to the base seven months after the attack and the changes that had taken place were a big improvement.
He said: “If it happened in the same location the difference would be unquantifiable.”
The inquest heard that soldiers gathered in the communal smoking area for an informal briefing at 9am. Following the briefing, the group dispersed, with some staying in the area, including Cpl Roberts, known as ‘Ginge’, and Pte Silibaravi, known as ‘Sili’, who was originally from Fiji.
Statements from their colleagues described a whistling noise and a huge explosion at about 9.25am.
The cause of death of the two soldiers was given as blast injuries caused by an explosion.
Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter recorded that the pair were unlawfully killed while on active duty.
Mr Salter said that on the evidence given the injuries were not survivable despite the best efforts of colleagues and medics to save the pair.
The indirect fire attack also wounded six other soldiers.
The inquest heard that the soldiers in the base were not wearing personal protective equipment because they were not required to do so at the time.
Pathologist Russell Delany said it was possible Pte Silibaravi’s injuries could have been less severe if he had been wearing armour.
However, pathologist Nicholas Hunt said armour would not have covered where Cpl Roberts was injured.
After the inquest, Cpl Roberts’ father, Stephen Roberts, who attended with his wife, Pauline, said all soldiers together should have had their armour on.
Mr Roberts added: “Andrew was a loving son, he was a loving dad to his kids. “He just loved life. Loved his job.”