Afghan gunman 'may have been shot'

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The rogue Afghan policeman who murdered five British troops could have been shot dead minutes later, an inquest heard today.

The gunman - known only as Gulbuddin - fled the scene of where he had executed the soldiers in cold blood.

The Afghan National Police (ANP) checkpoint then came under fire from two men, one of whom was wearing similar clothing to Gulbuddin and the other dressed in white, from a field 250 metres to the north east.

British troops stationed on the roof of Checkpoint Blue 25 - in the Nad-e-Ali district of Helmand Province - returned fire.

Guardsman Paul Steane said he saw an Afghan national wearing a blue dishdash - a traditional Arab robe - fall to the ground having been shot by a guardsman, who was armed with a GPMG machine gun.

"I looked down there and I am sure that the one in blue dropped and fell to the ground and the one in white ran off," the soldier told the hearing in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

Gulbuddin had fled the checkpoint after shooting Warrant Officer Class 1 Darren Chant, 40, Sergeant Matthew Telford, 37, and Guardsman Jimmy Major, 18, from the Grenadier Guards, as well as Corporal Steven Boote, 22, and Corporal Nicholas Webster-Smith, 24, from the Royal Military Police.

Another six British soldiers and two Afghan policemen were wounded in the attack on November 3 2009.

The off-duty soldiers were all unarmed and were not wearing body armour either.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the murders and some reports suggested Gulbuddin escaped back to them, but military sources have previously suggested the attack was probably unconnected to the insurgents.

Guardsman Steane, who serves with 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, said that after the shootings he went onto the roof of the checkpoint and came under fire from the nearby field.

He said he did not know whether either of the men was Gulbuddin but one was wearing similar clothing to the rogue policeman.

"It is possible but I am not 100% sure," he said.

The inquest heard that no body was ever recovered from the field but it was quite possible insurgents had taken it away.

The inquest heard that because the ANP were so poorly trained, ill-disciplined and open to corruption, British troops would work alongside the police to train and mentor them.

The British soldiers were at the checkpoint in the village of Shin Kalay because of a "blood feud" over a piece of land between a police commander and the local Taliban.

That had caused tensions between villagers and the ANP, which had been accused of beatings and bribery.

Guardsman Steane told the inquest that when Gulbuddin began shooting he was in his room resting.

"I was woken up by a long burst of automatic fire," he said.

"I jumped up not really knowing what was going on and I ran to the doorway of my room and looked down the corridor.

"Gulbuddin was stood in the doorway (entrance to the building) with a weapon at his hip.

"It was only a split second that I poked my head around the door and Gulbuddin opened fire on me hitting the wall and I jumped back in."

The soldier said Gulbuddin was wearing a blue dishdash and a black waistcoat and was carrying an AK47.

Lance Corporal William Woodgate also survived the massacre.

Before the shootings he was sitting next to Guardsman Major, reading a copy of Nuts magazine.

"I saw a man in a blue uniform and as he came towards us he raised his rifle towards the Sgt Major," he said.

"He fired and went down the line. I ran round the corner and felt a sharp pain in my right buttock.

"I went down. I lay on the ground where I believe he was shooting another three times."

L/Cpl Woodgate described to the hearing the ANP's poor discipline but said he did not feel threatened by them.

"Sometimes they didn't want to go out on patrol if they had done one that morning," he said.

"With a little persuasion they would come out with us."

In a written statement, the inquest heard that Guardsman Jonathan Foulkes was on duty on top of a Mastiff armoured vehicle when the shootings took place.

He said he initially was going to fire at Gulbuddin with vehicles machine gun but hesitated when he realised the bullets would pass straight through the building's wall and could have injured those inside.

The inquest was adjourned until tomorrow.