Tributes to soldiers shot by 'rogue' policeman

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Tributes to the five British soldiers murdered by an Afghan police officer poured in today as the death of another UK serviceman was announced.

The troops shot dead at a police checkpoint on Tuesday in an attack claimed by the Taliban were remembered as "men of courage".

They ranged from a teenage guardsman about to celebrate his 19th birthday to one of the Army's most senior non-commissioned officers, who was due to become a father for the fourth time.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Darren Chant, 40, Sergeant Matthew Telford, 37, and Guardsman Jimmy Major, 18, from the Grenadier Guards, died alongside Corporal Steven Boote, 22, and Corporal Nicholas Webster-Smith, 24, from the Royal Military Police.

They had been living and working at the police checkpoint in Nad-e-Ali in Helmand Province for about a fortnight as part of a 16-man British military mentoring team.

The manhunt for the killer, named only as Gulbuddin, was continuing today amid reports that the Taliban had claimed he was "safe" and back with them.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence confirmed another British soldier, from 3rd Battalion The Rifles, was killed in an explosion near Sangin in Helmand this morning. His family have been informed.

A total of 230 UK troops have died since the mission in Afghanistan began in October 2001.

As Regimental Sergeant Major, WO1 Chant, who was born in Walthamstow, east London, was the top non-commissioned officer in the 1st Battalion the Grenadier Guards.

On the day he was killed he was due to be told he had been awarded a commission as an officer.

He was also a leading contender to become the Academy Sergeant Major at the Sandhurst military training college, the most senior warrant officer's post in the Army.

On a previous tour of Afghanistan he single-handedly carried on his back an injured comrade in full kit more than a mile to safety.

He leaves his pregnant widow, Nausheen Chant, and three children from a previous marriage, Connor, 16, Adam, 10, and Victoria, eight.

Mrs Chant said: "Our unborn son will never meet his father but he will know him through his legacy.

"For whether in uniform or out, his incomparable courage and selflessness humbled all those who knew and loved him. His famed sense of humour lightened any situation.

"I will miss my best friend and nothing will fill the void he has left, my darling Darren."

Lieutenant Colonel Roly Walker, commanding officer of 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, spoke of WO1 Chant's achievements in mentoring the Afghan police before his death.

He said: "In a few short weeks he'd changed the relationship between the police and the villagers for the better.

"To them he was the face of integrity and professional conduct, and on him rested their hopes for a better future. But his success was a threat, and he was cowardly struck down."

Sgt Telford, from Grimsby, leaves behind his widow, Kerry, and two sons, Harry, four, and Callum, nine.

Mrs Telford, 33, spoke today of her dilemma about how to break the news to Harry.

She told the Grimsby Telegraph: "I don't know what I'm going to say to him. I don't want to say that nasty men have killed daddy - I want to be able to tell him that he's in heaven now and that he's gone to be with the angels."

Guardsman Major, also from Grimsby, was the youngest of those killed in the shooting.

He was due to turn 19 next Thursday but never had the chance to enjoy the birthday cake and presents his family had sent out to Afghanistan.

Speaking from the family home, his father Adrian said he was "shell-shocked" but added that it helped that so many people were thinking about his son.

Cpl Webster-Smith, who grew up in Camarthen, west Wales, and lived in Brackley, Northamptonshire, was on his second tour of Afghanistan.

Friends of the soldier left messages on his Facebook page expressing their shock and disbelief.

His girlfriend, Emma Robinson, wrote: "I love you so much and just cant believe this happening.

"You have made me so happy and we have had so many happy memories together which will never be forgotten. I love you always x x x x x x x x x x RIPxx"

Cpl Boote, from Birkenhead, Liverpool, was a soldier in the Territorial Army who had volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan.

He worked as a security team leader at a local Tesco store and had hoped to join the police when he returned to Britain.

His parents, Margaret and Anthony, said he would "light up a room with a single smile", adding: "Steven, we are all so proud of you and you will always be our hero."

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said it was a "particular tragedy" that the men were killed by one of the Afghans they were working alongside.

He said: "The memory of WO1 Darren Chant, Sgt Matthew Telford, Cpl Nicholas Webster-Smith, Cpl Steven Boote and Guardsman James Major, will live on.

"They were men of courage who died building security in Afghanistan and protecting people in the UK from terrorism.

"My deepest sympathies and condolences lie with their grieving families, friends, and all those who served alongside them who will feel the pain of loss most intensely. They are in all our thoughts."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted again today that training Afghan soldiers and police officers remained at the heart of the strategy for ending British involvement in Afghanistan.

Speaking during a visit to a community centre in Widnes, Cheshire, he said: "We've also got to show people that there is a way forward - that as we train Afghan forces to take responsibility for their own country, then our troops can come home.

"And it's to make that happen that we're stepping up the training of Afghan forces.

"It's not easy and we will have difficult days as we have had, but it's important to recognise that there are 43 countries involved in this effort and we have got to do it together to make sure this terrorist threat does not become a reality on our streets."