A British soldier has been shot and killed in southern Afghanistan in what appears to be the latest instance of an Afghan soldier turning on his foreign trainers, and a further illustration of the problems facing the national army and police as they take charge of the country's security.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed that a serviceman from 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales's) was killed on Saturday morning during a routine patrol with members of the Afghan National Army. It is investigating claims that an Afghan soldier fired the fatal shot.
Lt-Col Tim Purbrick, a spokesman for the British task force in Helmand, said: "A report that the fatal gunshot was fired by an Afghan National Army soldier is now the subject of a joint International Security Assistance Force and Afghan National Security Force investigation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the soldier's family and friends."
The dead soldier is the 376th British serviceman to die in Afghanistan and the latest to be killed by the Afghan troops and police they are there to instruct. Last year a rogue Afghan soldier killed three men serving with 1st Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles in the same district as Saturday's attack.
The Independent understands that the most recent incident took place near a checkpoint in Loya Manda, on the boundary between Nahr-e-Seraj and Nad-i-Ali districts in Helmand province. The British soldier was tracking the progress of a foot patrol from his Jackal armoured vehicle when both teams came under fire. Two other British soldiers were wounded.
The rogue Afghan soldier believed to be responsible, Abdul Jalil, fled, taking a British rifle as well as his own. He was last seen heading north-east near Gereshk, Helmand's economic centre.
The Brigade Advisory Group, to which all three soldiers belonged, prides itself on understanding cultural sensitivities. Although there have been instances of insurgents disguising themselves in Afghan National Army uniforms to gain access to their targets, Afghanistan intelligence officials believe Jalil was a bona fide soldier from the 2nd Kandak, 3rd Brigade of the 215 Hero Corps, which operates across Helmand under the mentorship of British troops and US Marines. They are trying to determine whether he was a sleeper agent or recruited by the Taliban after he joined.
In either case, it is an indication that the Taliban's spy network and its ability to run agents within Afghanistan's security forces poses a formidable challenge to Nato plans to hand the country over by 2014.
Eight members of UK forces have been killed by rogue Afghans. As a result, a series of checks, including biometric testing, has been brought in for recruits to the Afghan security forces.
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