One of the three servicemen killed by a renegade Afghan soldier yesterday was from Northern Ireland.
The soldier, named locally as Lieutenant Neal Turkington from Portadown, was serving with 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles in the Nahr-e Saraj region of Helmand Province when the Afghan opened fire.
It is understood Lt Turkington had been part of a unit that was mentoring and training the Afghan National Army (ANA).
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence told the Belfast Telegraph the family had requested “privacy and time” to come to terms with their grief.
Four others were injured in what the MoD has described as a “premeditated” attack. It is understood one of the soldiers was shot dead in his sleeping quarters, while the others were fatally wounded when the suspected Taliban ‘sleeper’ launched a rocket-propelled grenade.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has apologised to the UK for the incident. And in a statement Lieutenant Colonel James Carr-Smit, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said a massive manhunt had been launched to find the Afghan.
Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the “appalling” incident but said it should not change the strategy of working alongside Afghan forces. He said: “The insurgents want us to change our approach, they want us to abandon our strategy, they want us to lose faith in the Afghan National Army. That would not be the right approach.”
Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: “This is a despicable and cowardly act, and my thoughts go out to the family and friends of those who have lost their lives.”
Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson was among the local representatives to express sympathy to the fallen soldier’s devastated family.
He said: “I have tremendous respect for these young men and women and our thoughts go out to the families who have lost loved ones, but when it happens closer to home that’s when it really hits home.”
A Royal Marine was shot dead in a separate incident in Sangin in Helmand Province last night, the Ministry of Defence said.