Defence minister backtracks on claim some veterans took their own lives after Afghan exit

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James Heappey initially suggested that some British soldiers who served in Afghanistan had taken their own lives but later said the Government was looking at whether that was accurate

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James Heappey talks about former military members taking their own lives

A Defence Minister has backtracked on his claim that some British soldiers who served in Afghanistan have take their own lives since the withdrawal of Western forces.

James Heappey, who served in the country, said veterans, including a soldier who had been with him on his last tour in Afghanistan had taken their lives.

“That is hugely concerning and upsetting for people like me who are now in government and who served there. I know how much the veterans’ community is hurting,” he told Sky News.

Mr Heappey said it made him “sick to the bottom of my stomach” and expressed fear for his friends who were struggling with what they saw while serving in the country.

“That’s why the Government, the nation, needs to put our arm round our veterans and tell them how proud we are of what they did,” he said.

But the Armed Forces Minister later said he may have been wrong to suggest that some veterans had taken their lives following the fall of the country to the Taliban.



Taliban fighters gather along a street during a rally in Kabul
(

Image:

AFP via Getty Images)




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He told BBC Breakfast: “Since I mentioned that to your colleague Kay Burley on Sky only 20 minutes ago we have had a number of reports that the thing I was referring to was inaccurate.

“We are looking very, very carefully at whether it is true whether or not someone has taken their life in the last few days.”

It comes as Boris Johnson was due to appear before MPs to defend the Government’s handling of the crisis in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister will pledge to use “every economic, political and diplomatic lever” to help the Afghans left behind in what is likely to be a tense Commons appearance.

Mr Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab been heavily criticised for the Government’s failure to anticipate the speed of the Taliban takeover and the evacuation efforts.

Thousands of Afghans who worked with Britain, their families and other vulnerable citizens are feared to have been left behind when UK troops departed Kabul last month.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed call the Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK.



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