Cameron cancels Helmand visit amid attack fear

Gavin Cordon,Press Association
Thursday 10 June 2010 18:52 BST

David Cameron was today forced to abandon a visit to British troops in a frontline base amid fears that the Taliban were trying to bring down his helicopter.

The Prime Minister had been due to fly in to the patrol base at Shahzad in Helmand province to meet troops from the 1st Battalion Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.

But at the last minute the RAF Chinook helicopter carrying Mr Cameron and his entourage was diverted to the main operating base in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

A Government source said that mobile telephone "chatter" had been intercepted in the area referring to a possible attempt to bring down a helicopter.

Such calls are not uncommon and it would not on its own lead to the visit being aborted.

However a second call was then intercepted referring to a possible attack on a VIP.

At that point the commander of Taskforce Helmand, Brigadier Richard Felton - who was due to meet Mr Cameron at the base - decided it was too dangerous for the visit to continue and it was called off.

Mr Cameron, who had earlier visited a British-funded agriculture school near Lashkar Gah following talks with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, appeared unruffled by the incident.

After briefings from senior officers at Lashkar Gah, he enjoyed a barbecue with some of the troops there.

Aides said that he was "disappointed" that he had been unable to meet those at Shahzad where a mixed group of around 80 British soldiers and Afghan police are based.

The area had previously been seen as an insurgent stronghold and was hotly contested during the recent Operation Moshtarak in central Helmand.

However incidents and IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) finds are said to have "plummeted" in recent weeks and it was chosen for Mr Cameron's visit precisely because it was one of quieter areas in the region.

A senior aide to Mr Cameron said: "This highlights in the Prime Minister's mind the risks these brave men and women are putting themselves through on a daily basis."

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in