Taliban 'welcomed killer with garlands of flowers'

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The Independent Online

The Afghan police officer who shot dead five British soldiers in Helmand on Tuesday approached the Taliban two months ago to offer his services and sought refuge with the insurgents after carrying out the killings, Afghan security sources said yesterday.

One report claimed that Taliban militants welcomed the renegade officer, named only as Gulbuddin, with flowers after he escaped from pursuing British and Afghan troops in the town of Nad-e-Ali. A tribal leader said the officer had been smuggled out of the area.

According to the same sources, Gulbuddin had become dissatisfied after falling out with his commander Mohammed Wali, with whom he once had a close friendship. He felt slighted and asked to serve under another senior officer, named Manam.

However, Gulbuddin is said to have remained embittered and may have made contact with insurgents while on leave to see his father, Abdul Khaliq, at a village called Shira near Nad-e-Ali.

Gulbuddin's family came from Musa Qala, a town in Helmand which had several times changed hands between British forces and the Taliban. When he joined the Afghan police three years ago, some of the paperwork he was carrying was said to have been issued by the Taliban when they controlled the town. However, Afghan sources say there is no evidence that he had joined the insurgents at that time.

Gulbuddin, a member of the Alozai Pashtun tribe, subsequently spent about a year at a police academy in Kandahar and was afterwards posted to the Nad-e-Ali area, where the police force is dominated by the Noorzai tribe. Commander Wali is said to have protected him during a tribal dispute and the pair subsequently nurtured a friendship.

A senior police officer in Helmand's provincial capital, Lashkar Gar, said yesterday that British military police had removed a file on Gulbuddin and a number of other officers. A British military spokesman said details of the case could not be discussed while enquiries continued.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Afghans protested in Lashkar Gar, the base for Britain's forces in the country, against what they claimed was the killing of 11 civilian farm workers by foreign troops. A spokesman for Nato denied the charge, saying missiles were fired at a group it believed to be planting a roadside bomb in the town of Babaji.

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