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CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar (AP) -- A U.S. Patriot missile battery shot down a British Royal Air Force fighter aircraft Sunday near the Iraqi border with Kuwait, British officials said.
There was no word on the fate of the British crew and no information on their numbers, said Group Capt. Al Lockwood, spokesman for British forces in the Gulf. But British Ministry of Defense officials said two servicemen were aboard the downed Tornado GR4 jet.
"We're looking now for the evidence of the aircraft's crash site and, obviously, the crew members," he said.
No other information about the incident or crew was immediately released.
The jet, based in Marham, Britain, was returning from an operational mission early Sunday and was engaged by the missile battery, said a statement from the British press information center at U.S. Central Command.
"We can confirm that a Tornado GR4 aircraft ... was engaged near the Kuwaiti border by a Patriot missile battery," the statement said.
Earlier Sunday, U.S. military officials said a U.S. Patriot missile battery may have downed the plane. The British statement did not say the battery was American, but a British military spokeswoman in Qatar said it was.
Asked how a U.S. missile could have brought down the plane, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told ABC's "This Week" that "procedures and electronic means to identify friendly aircraft and to identify adversary aircraft ... broke down somewhere."
"Central Command is looking into that as we speak. Again, it's a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the crew members," Myers told ABC.
Lockwood noted the missile is designed to intercept everything above it from incoming ballistic missiles to low-flying cruise missiles.
"We wish to find out just as everybody else does, the U.S. as well, why this happened. And we will be carrying out a joint investigation to determine the facts so that we can eliminate this problem forever," he said.
Britain has sent some 45,000 military personnel to the Persian Gulf to join the U.S.-led attack against Iraq. Fourteen British and nine American servicemen have been killed since the war started Wednesday night EST.
RAF Group Capt. Jon Fynes said the Tornados were flying bomb strikes.
Lockwood acknowledged the bad start for the British so far in the campaign, saying it was "not one we would have chosen, I have to say, but this you must remember is high-intensity conflict. This is war and it's not training."
"We will continue to do our job and see it to its finish," he said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)