Fox mourns Brit troops killed by comrade

By Rebecca Burns

Three soldiers have been killed by a member of the Afghan national army in what defence secretary Liam Fox called “a despicable and cowardly act”.

The soldiers, from 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles, died whilst serving in southern Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand province.

David Cameron said the attack took place because of a “rogue element”.

The Ministry of Defence stated the assault was “a suspected premeditated attack by a member of the Afghan army”.

A spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lieutenant Colonel James Carr-Smith, said the actions were of “a lone individual who has betrayed his ISAF and Afghan comrades.”

“His whereabouts are currently unknown but we are making strenuous efforts to find him.”

The defence secretary said the “despicable and cowardly” incident would be “thoroughly investigated by ISAF and the Afghan security forces, and we will do everything we can to bring the individual responsible to justice.

Mr Fox added: “Training and developing the Afghan National Security Forces is vital to the international mission in Afghanistan and today’s events will not undermine the real progress we continue to make.”

But the deputy commander of ISAF forces, lieutenant general Sir Nick Parker, said the event would be traumatic for the coalition forces.

“In that patrol base this will be a traumatic event; what I say to them is, keep on working, you’re doing a fantastic job, and you must continue to do it, and the vast majority of your Afghan partners are real genuine partners and you’ll know that because you work together every day,” he said.

“But more widely across Helmand I think everybody knows partnering is the key to our future; we have got to transfer security responsibility to the people whose country this is and if we don’t do that we’re not going to succeed in our mission.”

One of the soldiers killed was reportedly shot whilst the other two suffered fatal injuries from a rocket propelled grenade.

It is believed that four British soldiers were also injured by the grenade.

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, has apologised to the UK following the attack.

The event brings the total number of British military personnel killed on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 to 317.