British soldiers were killed by 'trusted' Afghan policeman, inquest hears

Officer turned AK47 on Sergeant Gareth Thursby and Private Thomas Wroe without warning in Helmand

Two British soldiers were gunned down by a “trusted” Afghan policeman moments after he was seen laughing and joking with troops at a checkpoint, an inquest has heard.

The man was allowed to keep his weapon because he was considered such a supporter of the coalition but without warning turned his AK-47 on Sergeant Gareth Thursby, 29, and Private Thomas Wroe, 18.

A colleague of the two victims, Ryan Ward, 20, who shot the policeman dead, was found hanged at his home in the UK the day after Thursby’s funeral.

Ruling that Thursby and Wroe had been unlawfully killed, the Oxfordshire assistant coroner Alison Thompson said there was no known link between the policeman and the insurgency.

She said: “It is often difficult if not impossible to establish motivation in this sort of case, making it especially hard for families to come to terms with the death. I am sorry that I am not going to be in a position today to provide a reason for this appalling attack as I have heard no evidence as to why it took place.” The coroner stressed that the man had been seen as “trusted” and was “well-known”, adding: “What happened was entirely unpredictable.”

The inquest in Oxford heard that the policeman, known as Gul Agha, had been visiting the checkpoint in Helmand in September last year, a time of a spate of attacks by members of the Afghan security forces on coalition troops.

He was familiar to the men there and was believed to have suffered a foot injury in the 1980s fighting against the Soviet invaders.

A platoon commander, Lieutenant Callum Cameron, said: “He was very well-known. He was very pro-Isaf [the International Security Assistance Force]. He was a real champion of the partnership.”

Nobody had challenged him or felt threatened and he had been allowed into the base with his weapon slung over his back.

Before the attack, the man had asked for medical help for his foot but was told – as he had been on previous occasions – that Isaf staff could not help him.

As he sat at a table with the soldiers, members of the 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, he opened fire. Wroe was hit four times and Thursby five times.

The inquest heard that Afghan security forces were required to make their weapons “safe” when entering the checkpoint, but did not have to unload or hand them in. It was not known whether the man had made his safe.

Major James Glossop, from the operational training and advisory group, which looks at what lessons can be learned, said there was a spike of “insider attacks” in Afghanistan at around the time of the killings, and it was impossible to be “100%-proof” from them.

Asked about the rules concerning weapons inside checkpoints, he said it was difficult to adopt a “blanket approach”. “You build a relationship, you build that trust and that is extremely important as part of that transition …read more  

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