Defence chiefs are investigating a claim that soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment have been photographed showing their support for a far-right anti-Islam group.
Several pictures are under investigation.
One shows soldiers from regiment – which recruits in Cumbria – posing next to the flag of the English Defence League (EDL) at a homecoming parade for the regiment in Blackburn last year.
Eight soldiers are seen standing next to the flag, bearing the words: “EDL supports Duke of Lancaster Regiment.”
Another more controversial picture shows a uniformed solider, allegedly in Helmand Province, his face hidden by a black scarf as he brandishes a pistol and stands in front of before the EDL flag.
An active branch of the organisation hit the headlines in Carlisle last month when one of their members was jailed for publicly burning the Koran in the city centre.
The pictures – which have not yet been confirmed to be genuine – could help radicalise some Muslim, and inflame divisions between Islam and the West.
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman yesterday confirmed that an investigation was now underway, but suggested that some of the soldiers who appear in the photos may have been hoodwinked into posing next to the EDL flag.
“Individuals are free to join political parties but they’re not permitted to take an active role in political campaigning and must abide by our values and standards in all they do,” she told the News & Star.
“Instances of unacceptable behaviour in the armed forces are investigated, and appropriate action taken – up to and including dismissal.
“An investigation is already underway into allegations that individuals have breached army regulations through their involvement with the EDL.”
Kevin Caroll, 41, who is joint EDL leader, said the organisation was opposed to racism, but the Cumbrian branch is currently publishing an on-line video crammed with anti-Islamic slogans.
The first of these shows a medieval crusader in battle armour, under the slogan: “Jihad works both ways.” Another slogan tells viewers: “Let the crusade begin.”
Patrick Mercer, a former chairman on the Commons counter terrorism sub-committee, urged servicemen to steer clear of the EDL. He said the pictures could be used as propaganda by extremists in Afghanistan. “That could only damage our cause,” he said.
News & Star