Shameful slur on a fallen hero…

Claims that a missing Bahraini fighter pilot had been kidnapped by the US besmirched the name of a fallen hero, the BDF declared yesterday. Bahrain and the US denied vigorously that Lieutenant Colonel Abdulaziz Saleh Sultan Sinan Al Dossary had been seized nearly three years ago and was still being held in secret by the US.

MPs demanded on Tuesday that the inquiry be re-opened into the 42-year-old pilot’s disappearance in his F-16 jet, during an exercise over the Gulf waters, in September 2003.MPs accused the US of kidnapping him and claimed he was being held in a secret prison or possibly at Guantanamo Bay, along with other Arab fighter pilots.

But the allegations were dismissed as “fiction” by the BDF and strongly denied by the US. “It was alleged in parliament on Tuesday that after the Bahraini F-16 crash in 2003, the US somehow took hold and continues to hold the Bahraini pilot,” said a US Embassy spokesman.”This allegation is completely unfounded. It is simply not true and without merit.

“Lt Col Al Dossary’s warplane vanished off radar screens at around 8pm on September 27, 2003 during a routine training flight over the Northern Gulf.

MP Abdulaziz Al Moosa said during Tuesday’s session that the Americans were holding him with 35 other Saudi warplane pilots – who also disappeared on the same night – in one of their camps, maybe Guantanamo Bay or in the US.

He said Lt Col Al Dossary’s belongings, which he left before flying, had vanished.At the time, Bahraini, US, British, Australian and New Zealand rescue teams searched for any sign of the plane or the pilot. They covered more than 1,300 square miles of water, with ships, small boats and helicopters.

An area five times the size of Bahrain was covered.It was thought that he could have crashed into the sea after becoming disorientated during a dive manoeuvre with his wingman. There was no mayday signal prior to the disappearance and sources said Lt Col Al Dossary did not eject from the plane as it went down, because the ejector seat would have given off a signal when it touched the water.

Lt Col Al Dossary was described as one of the most senior officers in the F-16 First Squadron and a qualified flight instructor.He was said to be flying at an altitude of 18,000 feet just moments before his plane disappeared from the radar.

A second F-16 involved in the exercise later landed safely in Bahrain.A BDF spokesman said yesterday that it was “pure fiction that the martyr pilot was a prisoner, because he had no extremist tendencies nor suspected links”.

“His honourable military record is a clear evidence of that,” he said.

“Mr Al Dossary was one of the officers known for their loyalty to His Majesty King Hamad and the country.”

“The US is a country which adheres to international procedures, so the possibility of them kidnapping him is false.”

The spokesman said the US was a friendly country respected by the King, Bahrain and the BDF.

“It would never detain a Bahraini pilot without taking the relevant international legal procedures, particularly with the joint pacts that regulate such issues,” he said.

US forces were not present in the area at the time when the plane disappeared from the radar, said the spokesman.

“The US forces, in fact, have actively participated in the search operations and provided all their resources,” he said.

The spokesman said the BDF has one of the best safety records in the world and such accidents were rare.

“The search for Lt Col Al Dossary and his warplane was carried out over a month, with the help of other military forces”, he said.

It also included the use of a ship with equipment to scan the seabed, which was 150ft down in the area where the jet was thought to have crashed.

Lt Col Al Dossary’s body was never found, but a piece of his plane was found on Bahrain’s shore about a month after it vanished, said the spokesman.

“The missing warplane was accompanied by another plane from the Royal Air Force there was no indication on the radar that it had changed direction to another country, or been shot down,” he said.

“The only thing shown was its downfall towards the sea, until its complete disappearance from the BDF and Civil Aviation radars, in addition to the other plane’s radar.”

The three are separate entities and can’t collaborate to make this up.”

The plane’s steering mechanism was found a month later, on October 25, 2003, by a local on the shore and after matching it with our records, it was confirmed that it was from the missing plane.

However, the entire wreckage of the plane could not be found because it was at a depth of approximately 150ft and the area is well known for its strong currents, that may result in moving the body of the plane from its place.

An investigation committee was set up on directives of Defence Minister and BDF Deputy Commander-in-Chief Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa.

“As part of the investigation, the BDF confiscated Lt Col Al Dossary’s personal and official effects,” said the spokesman.

“Once the investigation was over, all of his belongings were given back to his family.

“What this MP has raised and what was published in the local Press and media lacks truth and credibility and harms the BDF.

“We would like to clarify that first of all the BDF is an organisation under His Majesty the King and Supreme Commander.

“It is unconstitutional to interfere in its affairs and in the case of inquiries or questions, they are referred to the authorities concerned at the BDF.

“Secondly, such issues being raised harms one of the nation’s martyrs and the accident should not be used for personal gain.

“The honourable MP should have provided all this valuable information to the authorities concerned at the BDF, where the doors are always open, instead of making accusations and causing the martyr’s family pain.

“The investigation file has been closed, all the necessary procedures have been taken and all details related to the accident, including pictures, have been published in the local Press,” said the spokesman.

“The BDF understands the sentiments of all the relatives who lost a loved one, while he was carrying out his noble duty in serving His Majesty the King and the Nation.

“Mr Al Moosa told the GDN yesterday that all MPs wanted was the truth.

“I believe that the BDF’s statement is informative and tells us everything necessary, something we were looking for a long time ago,” he said.

“We had to open the door on the case, because everyone wanted to know and I believe we have got what we were aiming for.

“This transparent statement is a relief to the family, which has been waiting for some time to know about the fate of its missing breadwinner, whose body or plane have never showed up.

“Lt Col Al Dossary left behind a wife and four children, Fatima, aged 12, Sultan, nine, Dhabya, six, and Saud, who was born around the time of his disappearance.