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Post  Panda on Fri 6 Sep - 7:14

Afghan Cop 'Was Friend' Of UK Soldiers He ShotGul Agha was "laughing and joking" moments before opening fire on British soldiers, whose role in Afghanistan he had championed.6:26pm UK, Thursday 05 September 2013 Private Thomas Wroe and Sergeant Gareth Thursby
EmailBy Lisa Dowd, Midlands Correspondent

A rogue Afghan policeman who shot dead two British soldiers was a "champion" of Nato's mission in Afghanistan, an inquest has heard.

A coroner ruled that Sergeant Gareth Thursby, 29 and Private Thomas Wroe, 18, from 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of Wellington's) were unlawfully killed.

The pair were shot dead by a man, known as Gul Agha, on September 15 last year in Helmand Province.

Assistant Oxfordshire Coroner Alison Thompson said the men and their colleagues were fired upon "apparently without warning" by a man they had thought was their friend.

She told the one-day inquest there was no evidence as to what had motivated Agha, who she said "had every opportunity to make this attack because no one saw him as a threat".

The inquest heard the elderly Afghan Local Policeman (ALP) allowed into the soldier's checkpoint in the Nahr-e Saraj district with his AK-47 rifle.

Private Reece Noble, said Agha's gun was "slung over his shoulder" and that there was nothing to concern him.

Lieutenant Callum Cameron, the Platoon Commander at the time, admitted it would have been unusual for the man to be let into the "welfare area" of the base with a weapon.

But he said he could only theorise that "highly experienced" Sgt Thursby would have made a judgment to allow him in because he was trusted.

Lt Cameron said there was no "blanket rule" on allowing visitors with weapons into the checkpoint, and depending on the threat level, soldiers within the checkpoint did not wear protective body armour, unless manning guard towers.

Lance Corporal Christopher Reynolds told how Agha, who had a long standing medical complaint was "pointing to his foot, he was saying 'doctor, doctor'", and he walked with a limp.

L/Cpl Reynolds said he checked the foot and called the on-site medic who explained that it was an old injury which she could not treat.

"He just seemed perfectly normal", he said.

Lt Cameron said he was in the operations room when he heard "several loud bangs, ie shots fired".

A short time later he saw Sgt Thursby on the floor "very much hanging on in there".

"Sadly, Private Wroe's wounds were very severe, he was shot in the head," he said.

Private Dominic Hern said "I could see the ALP man stood at the back of Wroe with the weapon pointing at his head ... he fired two rounds into Private Wroe".

Lance Corporal Ian Young, who had trained Agha, was in the laundry area when he heard gunshots.

He said Kingsman Ryan Ward "fired a couple of rounds ... I think that's what dropped the ALP".

A number of other soldiers fired shots at Agha and he was killed. Sgt Thursby and Pte Wroe were evacuated by helicopter but died of multiple gunshot wounds.

The inquest heard that their injuries would still have been fatal had they been wearing body armour.

The families of the two victims attended the hearing, along with relatives of Kingsman Ward, who committed suicide after attending Sgt Thursby's funeral in Yorkshire.

Private Wroe's father, Mick, said he had come to find out what had happened to his son and Sgt Thursby, and hoped "lessons can be learned from this".

L/Cpl Young described Gul Agha as a "family man".
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Post  Panda on Fri 6 Sep - 7:38

Afghanistan: Last UK Troops Leave Nad-e Ali BaseBritain has "paid a heavy price" for its presence in Helmand danger zone Nad-e Ali, where the last of its 55 bases has closed.3:07am UK, Friday 06 September 2013 Video: UK Soldiers Leave Helmand Base
Enlarge EmailBy Alistair Bunkall, Sky News Correspondent

The last remaining British base in Afghanistan's Nad-e Ali district has closed, marking the end of six years in the area for UK forces and a major chapter in military history.

Nad-e Ali has been one of the most violent districts in the conflict. A total of 52 British soldiers lost their lives fighting the Taliban there, as did many Afghan soldiers, policemen and civilians.

Sky News was the last television news organisation to travel to Nad-e Ali and witnessed the final days of British occupation.

At the height of the insurgency, there were 55 British bases in the danger zone in Helmand Province. The final one to close was Camp Shawqat just on the edge of Nad-e Ali's main bazaar.

Over the summer, the 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment was based in Shawqat.

Their role was to maintain security in the area and assist local forces when needed, while at the same time packing up the camp

The regiment's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Neil Unsworth, said: "We've paid a heavy price here I think in Nad-e Ali. It's one of the places that people remember.

"So certainly from my perspective, at least by seeing what's been gained here and the state of things now, makes me feel that things weren't in vain and we're very pleased with the gains that have been made."

There were 55 British bases in the district at the height of the insurgency

The closure of all the bases required a considerable logistical and security operation.

Long convoys of armoured vehicles and lorries, known as Combat Logistic Patrols, travelled from Camp Bastion to load up the equipment.

Essentially, they are heavily protected military removal men, moving house in a war zone.

In the case of Camp Shawqat, eight patrols - each of around 40 vehicles - had to drive the 20 or so miles from Camp Bastion.

Not far, but it takes more than four hours because of the potential for improvised explosive devices (IED) and small arms fire.

Captain Tony Brooks, of 2nd Lancs, said: "We had everything a small village had, from post rooms to running water to showers and we slowly then had to withdraw all this.

"It's basically like moving a small village from one place in Helmand back to Camp Bastion."

Chinook helicopters working in rotation moved the last remaining soldiers out of the base and the district.

The move from Nad-e Ali is a significant step in the UK's plans for a complete withdrawal of combat forces by the end of 2014.

The security situation in the district is considerably better than it was even a matter of months ago and it would appear to be improving all the time.

The move is a major step in Britain's withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014

Afghan soldiers and police work together now and take the lead in operations. It has been a deliberate tactic by the British to sit in the background for some months, providing a support role only.

The purpose of this approach was to create an atmosphere similar to how it will be now they have left completely.

Nevertheless, patrol bases are shot at by the Taliban daily and the casualty rate among Afghans is phenomenally high.

One might argue that now the hard fought gains are starting to show, it is too soon for the British to leave.

Some suggest they should stay, consolidate the progress, and see off the Taliban completely.

But there is a confidence that the Afghan forces are willing, but more importantly able, to maintain and improve the security of the region now. That will be judged in time.

Because when is the right time for an occupying force to leave an area? When does the moment come to say enough is enough?

That decision carries a lot of emotional responsibility. To the Afghans, to the soldiers who have served there and to everybody who has lost a life in Nad-e Ali.
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