Soldier's death 'due to friendly fire'

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The Independent Online

A British soldier who died in southern Afghanistan yesterday may have been killed by friendly fire, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said today.

The soldier, from the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, was shot while on patrol in the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand Province.

Initial reports indicate that his death may have been caused by an attack on an insurgent position by a US aircraft, an MoD spokesman said.

The spokesman said: "Further to the announcement of the death of a soldier from 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment in Nad e-Ali yesterday, initial reports suggest that the death was caused as a result of a friendly fire incident.

"The incident will be the subject of a full investigation; however, first reports indicate that an attack on an insurgent position by a US aircraft, requested by and agreed with British forces on the ground, may have been the cause.

"The investigation is ongoing and as such it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

The family of the serviceman, who has not yet been named, have been told.

The incident in Helmand Province is under investigation by the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

A spokesman said: "During the incident, an Isaf service member may have been killed from coalition forces air support during an operation in Nad 'Ali district.

"While conducting a dismounted patrol, Afghan and coalition forces were engaged with enemy forces and requested close air support to suppress the enemy fire.

"In the subsequent contact, an Isaf service member was killed.

"The investigation is to determine if the Isaf casualty was caused by enemy or friendly-force fire."

More information will be released when the investigation has been completed, he added.

The soldier was part of an operation working to increase security in the district, Task Force Helmand spokesman Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman said.

He added: "He has made the ultimate sacrifice protecting the people of Nad-e Ali from insurgent intimidation and defending his country from the threat of terrorism; no more could be asked of any soldier. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him."

A total of 346 UK military personnel have died since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001.