Officer killed in shooting on British nuclear submarine

LONDON, April 9, 2011 (AFP) - A Royal Navy officer was killed and another seriously injured in a shooting on a British nuclear-powered submarine, police said, which was only halted when a visiting politician tackled the gunman.

Another member of the navy was arrested on suspicion of murder following the incident on Friday in the southern English port of Southampton, officials said, stressing that the shooting was not "terrorist-related".

(FILES) A file photo taken on November 20, 2009, shows the British Royal Navy's nuclear submarine, HMS Astute

The attack, aboard the British navy's most advanced and newest submarine HMS Astute, came to an end when the leader of the local council disarmed the gunman and wrestled him to the ground.

The politician, Royston Smith, happened to be on a guided tour of the submarine at the time, which was in Southampton on a five-day visit after reportedly spending seven weeks at sea.

Describing his decision to tackle the gunman, Smith told the BBC: "He had a magazine with 30 rounds in it so I took the view that someone had to stop him.

"At some point I decided that the best form of defence was to try to disarm him. I guess I'm lucky he did not hit me."

"He fired again while I had hold of the weapon. I had a strange feeling. I was not sure if I'd been hit -- it didn't hurt -- but I wasn't thankfully."

Smith, a former member of the Royal Air Force (RAF), pushed the gunman to the ground and prised the weapon from his grasp.

He then restrained the attacker with the help of the council chief executive who was also on a tour of the submarine when the incident happened around noon (1100 GMT).

The mayor of Southampton was also part of the tour. A spokesman for Southampton City Council said the dignitaries were "safe and unharmed."

Armed police, firefighters, paramedics and the local air ambulance were quickly deployed to the docks when the incident started and two police launches patrolled near the submarine, witnesses said.

Chief Superintendent David Thomas of Hampshire Police confirmed a shooting had taken place: "On board the submarine a firearm had been discharged which resulted in two crew members being injured. One of these injuries proved fatal.

"The other crew member was taken to hospital in Southampton with significant injuries. His condition is now described as stable."

He added: "A man, also a member of the Royal Navy, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder."

The spokesman said police would be questioning everyone who was on board at the time, about 30 people, as witnesses.

"Submarine security was not breached as part of the incident and it is not a terrorist-related incident. The vessel, which has been assessed by senior naval personnel, is safe," he added.

It is thought the shooting was carried out with an SA80 service rifle, and took place during a weapons changeover between sentry duty shifts.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed the details given by the police, and Defence Secretary Liam Fox offered his condolences to the victims' families.

"I am greatly saddened to hear of this tragic incident and of the death of a Royal Navy serviceman," Fox said.

"It is right and proper that a full police investigation is carried out and allowed to take its course. My thoughts and sympathies are with those who have been affected and their families."

HMS Astute, which is almost 328 feet (100 metres) long, was launched by Prince Charles' wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, in June 2007 but was only deployed in August last year.

It made headlines two months later in October when it ran aground off the coast of Scotland and had to be towed home. The submarine was then damaged in a collision with the tug and had to be repaired.

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