Colchester soldiers in shooting mistake

COLCHESTER soldiers have shot at a group of Afghan policemen after mistaking them for Taliban terrorists.Last night, the Ministry of Defence confirmed the group from Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade had accidentally injured up to 12 Afghan policemen in the fire fight on Wednesday.

By Sharon Asplin

COLCHESTER soldiers have shot at a group of Afghan policemen after mistaking them for Taliban terrorists.

Last night, the Ministry of Defence confirmed the group from Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade had accidentally injured up to 12 Afghan policemen in the fire fight on Wednesday.

None of the British soldiers - thought to be members of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment - was hurt and a full investigation has been launched.


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A MoD spokeswoman said: “We can confirm an incident between a UK Force Reconnaissance Unit and Afghan National Police (ANP) in northern Helmand on April 5.

“At present we understand the ANP sustained a small number of casualties but we do not believe there were any deaths. No UK personnel was injured.

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“The UK Force Reconnaissance Unit was conducting a routine patrol to enhance knowledge of the area north of Gereshk in southern Afghanistan when they encountered a third party, now understood to be the ANP. It would appear the two patrols mistook each other for a Taliban group and engaged with each other.

“Once UK forces made contact with ANP commanders in Gereshk, and identities were established, the situation was immediately resolved.

“We are conducting a thorough investigation to establish exactly what happened to ensure this sort of incident does not happen again.”

The spokeswoman added the reconnaissance unit was in a new area and each group had not yet got used to the other one.

It is thought the confusion arose because the Afghan police uniform of long robes and AK47 rifles made them resemble guerrilla fighters.

Some 3,300 British troops, including more than 1,600 from Colchester's 16 Air Assault Brigade, are to join a Nato mission this summer following the withdrawal of US units who have been conducting anti-terrorist operations.

Last month the first main contingent of Colchester-based troops from 13 Air Assault Support Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, left the town's garrison to prepare the way for thousands of British troops, whose aim is to help the Afghan security forces maintain stability as they target opium production in the south-west.

Although the main group will not take part in the targeting of poppy fields and opium laboratories, they will attempt to provide an environment in which the Afghan Government can do so.

Around 330 troops from 13 Air Assault Support Regiment will be going to Afghanistan to support elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade, especially 3 Para.

It is thought the reconnaissance unit had only arrived in the area days before the shoot-out.

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