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Grandad: I'm not military-trained. I'm a white van driver

A grandfather from Washington, Tyne and Wear has travelled to Iraq to join the fight against so-called Islamic extremist group IS.

Jim Atherton, who has no military experience, has joined a Christian militia group called Dwekh Nawsha, which claims to protect Christians from attack.

He told The Sun newspaper that it was the first time he'd done anything like this.

I am not military-trained. I'm a white van driver.

I'm a European Express courier. If there is a road there I have been there and if it fits in a Sprinter van I have carried it.

I've done that for twenty plus years. I am not interested in doing anything else.

Once the fight is over here I would like to think I could start something here.

– Jim Atherton


Iraq deaths inquiry bid: Tyneside mum to get ruling

Corporal Paul Long died in 2003.

A decision is due today on a bid by a South Tyneside mother whose son was killed by an armed mob in Iraq to get a new independent inquiry into his death.

Corporal Paul Long, 24, and five Royal Military Police (RMP) colleagues died on June 24th 2003 after the police station where they were sent, in Majar-al-Kabir in south east Iraq, to meet police they had been tasked to develop, was surrounded and attacked.

Also among the dead were Corporal Simon Miller from Washington, Tyne and Wear, and Lance Corporals Benjamin Hyde from Northallerton.

Lance Corporals Benjamin Hyde (left) and Corporal Simon Miller.

Patricia Long, from Hebburn, was at the Court of Appeal in London last month for her challenge to a ruling by High Court judges that she did not have a "right in law" to have another investigation.

They said last year: "We have held that the right of a soldier under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights to have his life protected by law does not include a right to be safeguarded from human error, including negligent error, in the conduct of military operations which result in the risk of death on active service being greater than it would otherwise have been."

Michael Fordham QC, for Mrs Long, had argued that all the formal inquiries so far, including an inquest, had failed to get to the bottom of how mistakes that led to the deaths were made - and who was responsible for them.

He said that the six Red Caps had been sent to the police station without an iridium satellite phone, which might have enabled them to call for help.

This was despite a clear order, issued a month before by the Commander of the Battle Group occupying Maysan Province, that all patrols should have the equipment.

At the appeal, he told the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, sitting with Lord Justice Lewison and and Lord Justice Underhill, that the High Court was wrong to say that no investigative duty was triggered as there was no arguable substantive breach of Article 2.

It was also wrong to find that any investigative duty had been discharged by steps already taken and that there was no continuing duty - in that it was no longer the position that the authorities could reasonably be expected to take measures to elucidate the circumstances and responsibility.

He said: "The question which has hung over this case for 12 years is - if there was an order a month earlier that all patrols should have this means of communication - whose responsibility was it to ensure compliance?"

It was not an answer to say that what happened was the result of human error and was the responsibility of "someone in the chain of command".

"That broad generality is not the truth coming to light," he said.

North East rebel MPs vote against air strikes

A handful of North East Labour MPs have voted against British military involvement in Iraq.

Government plans to join air strikes against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq were backed in a commons ballot by 524 votes to 43.

Amongst those who voted no were Easington MP Grahame Morris, Ronnie Campbell, who represents Blythe Valley, and Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn.

Northumberland MP votes 'No' in air strikes debate

Ronald Campbell, who represents Blyth Valley Credit: PA

Ronald Campbell, who represents Blyth Valley, voted no in today's debate over plans to join air strikes against Islamic State (IS).

The debate, which lasted more than six hours, ended with an overwhelming yes vote of 524, leaving a majority of 481.

Ronald Campbell is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Blyth Valley since 1987. He was one of the 43 who voted no.


Newcastle MP 'really sorry' as Labour MP resigns

Labour MP Rushanara Ali has resigned from the party's front bench in order to abstain from a vote on military action in Iraq.

She served as the shadow education minister and will continue to be the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow.

Her decision follows MPs voting to back Government plans to join air strikes against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq after more than six hours of debate in an emergency recall of Parliament.

The front benches of the three main parties united over the proposals, which could see the first RAF strikes within hours, and Prime Minister David Cameron's motion was carried 524 to 43, majority 481.

Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central, has tweeted her consolation to Rushanara Ali, saying it was "a tough decision with no right answer".

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