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11 September 2013, 06:18
An inquest into the deaths of two British soldiers in Afghanistan, including one from Hampshire, has heard a drug-using Afghan policeman turned his gun on them in an attack prompted by losing face.
The policeman, known as Naqib, and another off-duty Afghan policeman, killed Corporal David O'Connor (pictured), who was 27 and from Havant, and Corporal Channing Day, 25, while the victims were on foot patrol on 24 October 2012 in Helmand's Nahr-e-Saraj district.
Cpl Day, of 3 Medical Regiment was the third British servicewoman killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
She was deployed a month earlier to provide medical support to 40 Commando Royal Marines, Cpl O'Connor's unit.
The British pair were on their way to train local police in first aid and spot roadside bombs when their patrol was attacked near the village of Char Kutsa.
Their inquest at Oxford County Hall heard that in the aftermath of the attack - in which Naqib was shot dead and the other gunman escaped - other Afghan policemen appeared "at ease'' and "unhelpful''.
Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter, who recorded a verdict of unlawful killing while on active service, said the day before the attack Naqib and his brother lost face when they were disarmed by British soldiers outside the region's Patrol Base One.
"First of all, to the extent that there was any doubt before, this was, and should be termed as, an insider attack,'' Mr Salter said.
Describing Naqib, he added:
"He was a known identified member of the Afghan Uniformed Police and he was the person responsible for the inside attack.
"In terms of his motive, that is always going to involve some speculation, of course, because he is deceased. It doesn't seem clear, and certainly there is no evidence, that he had any links to the insurgents or the Taliban.
"The incident the day before when Naqib and his brother were stopped and challenged at Patrol Base One does seem to be related and does seem to be a matter that contributed.
"And there was a loss of face of both him and his brother.
"It appears in evidence, particularly in evidence from the persons that were present, that it was this individual who fired the shots on Cpl Day and Cpl O'Connor before he was killed.
"It seems likely that there was a second attacker.
"It is clear to me in evidence that it was the attacker Naqib who fired first.''
Cpl Day and Cpl O'Connor were the last two members of an eight-person patrol group.
Directly in front of them was intelligence expert Corporal Nick Brown.
He said he had seen Naqib, whose AK47 had orange tape wrapped round it, several times in the weeks before.
He said he was usually friendly and they would communicate with each other in broken English or Pashtu, or by using hand gestures.
Cpl Brown said Naqib was known to be a drug user.
Asked if he looked like he was under the influence of narcotics on the day of the attack, he said: "He did seem a bit vacant.''
Naqib's brother was the commander of a local checkpoint and two of their brothers had been killed by insurgents, said Cpl Brown, making it unlikely they had joined the insurgents.
On the afternoon of the attack, Naqib walked up to Cpl Brown outside the checkpoint and made a signal with his fingers that mimicked legs walking.
The serviceman thought the Afghan was asking if the British troops were on patrol or whether he could join their patrol.
"He was smiling, laughing, smirking,'' said Cpl Brown.
"I had met him before and I didn't perceive him to be a threat. He seemed very innocent, as it were.''
Cpl Philip Benford, who was in command of the patrol group, said he saw two men fire at them with Kalashnikov weapons as they arrived at the checkpoint.
"I distinctly remember that first initial contact,'' he said.
"When I span round there was another fast, furious volley of rounds and it was from a gunman who ran behind the wall.''
The troops fired back at their attackers, killing Naqib.
Sergeant Richard Bateman was leading a second patrol to the checkpoint that day.
The Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) were "very unco-operative'' when he got there, he said, and he struggled to get inside.
"As soon as I went to the top of the sangar, there were two AUP ranks at the sangar,'' he said.
"I didn't see them firing.
"However, I did think it was very strange that they didn't let us in, bearing in mind they had the best arcs (of fire) on to the area itself.
"Obviously we were dealing with different characters, but I recall I did highlight the fact that they were very unco-operative on the whole.''
Cpl O'Connor, who lived with his mother Rosemary in Havant, was deployed to Afghanistan at the end of September last year as a section commander in the acting rank of corporal.
Cpl Day was born in Swindon and grew up in Newtownards, Co Down, before joining the Army in 2005.
The inquest heard they both died from single gunshot wounds to the chest.