French Military Exercise Goes Bad

The errors that resulted in the accidental shooting of 17 civilians at a French military demonstration in Carcassone began well before live rounds instead of blanks were mistakenly loaded into an assault rifle by a seasoned veteran sergeant. According to an eye-witness cited by Jean-Dominique Merchet on his Secret Défense blog, the shooting took place during a mock liberation of a hostage, while the squad of four was demonstrating an armed retreat under fire with the use of a smokescreen:

During the entire firing sequence, two soldiers fired to cover the other two who retreated, then they changed roles, marking a progressive retreat.

During the second part of the firing sequence, the shooters, the smokescreen and the target were all aligned with the. . . public. On my recording of the accident, I can say that the firing sequence lasted 35 seconds without interruption. (Translated from the French.)

That’s some tragically faulty planning that luckily didn’t turn out as tragic as it might have. President Sarkozy basically promised that heads would roll, up and down the chain of command, saying, “The reaction will be rapid and severe.”