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Army again says it did not cover up death

WASHINGTON -- The Army yesterday issued a fresh denial that it attempted to cover up the friendly-fire death of former pro football player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan.

The Army said procedural mistakes were to blame for its slow acknowledgment of the circumstances of Tillman's death.

Tillman's parents have criticized the Army for waiting weeks to tell them his death was accidental and did not result from enemy fire. They have accused the government of lying to cover up.

A statement from the Army's public affairs office said Tillman's Ranger unit did not quickly tell the Pentagon of the nature of his death, because the unit's leaders were waiting until their investigation was finished.

''While procedural misjudgments and mistakes contributed to an air of suspicion, no one intended to deceive the Tillman family or the public as to the cause of his death," the Army statement said. The Ranger unit's withholding information ''was an application of judgment, not a willful violation of regulation. Nevertheless, it was procedurally wrong."

The statement came in response to recent critical remarks by Tillman's parents, Army spokesman Paul Boyce said. He said the Army will continue to provide them with information on his death as it becomes available.

Tillman, who played for the Arizona Cardinals in the National Football League, left football after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to join the Army with his brother.

After a tour in Iraq, they were sent to Afghanistan in 2004 to help hunt for the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

On April 22, 2004, Tillman was killed by gunfire from his fellow soldiers, who mistook him for the enemy as he got into position to defend them, military officials have said. After the initial reports of his death, the military for weeks did not dispute the widespread belief he was killed by enemy fire.

His memorial service in San Jose, Calif., took place May 3, 2004. The Army announced 26 days later that Tillman probably died because of friendly fire.

The Army has previously said it should have handled the information on Tillman's death better.

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