Infantry died 'after confusion in battle'

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The Independent Online

A coroner has voiced concern that a military operation in Afghanistan in which two soldiers died was thwarted by confusion over rules of engagement.

David Masters was told that a British attack on the Taliban last September was halted for an hour because air crews were not allowed to shoot at insurgents unless it was in self-defence.

Major Jamie Nowell, who led the pre-planned assault involving the 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters), told the inquest his troops were behind enemy lines, trying to destroy Taliban positions near Garmsir. His men were under "429 A" rules, allowing them to engage any identified enemy, while the air crew were on "Card A", permitting them to fire only in self-defence.

"I could not understand how it had happened," Major Nowell told the hearing at Trowbridge. "Eventually the aircraft was put on 429 A, but it took 60 minutes. The opportunity to engage the Taliban was lost."

Sgt Craig Brelsford and Pte Johan Botha, both 25, died in the ensuing battle. Mr Masters, the Wiltshire coroner, recorded unlawful killing verdicts on both, saying: "By the time [the order to attack] was in place, the movement of Taliban could not be discovered again, so there was no air attack."

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