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Iranian link to killer of soldiers in Afghanistan is investigated

The investigation into the killing of three British soldiers by an Afghan colleague will try to uncover if he was involved with groups other than the Taliban. Senior officials said they will try to ascertain whether Talib Hussein (22) had any connection with Shia organisations with links to Iran.



THE investigation into the killing of three British soldiers by an Afghan colleague will try to uncover if he was involved with groups other than the Taliban. Senior officials said they will try to ascertain whether Talib Hussein (22) had any connection with Shia organisations with links to Iran.

The suspect, who escaped after the attack, was from the Hazara community which has traditionally had strong links with Iran, and suffered at the hands of the Taliban when they were in power.

The officials stressed that any such link would not mean that the Iranian government was involved in any way with the murders. No evidence had emerged that Hussein was involved in a conspiracy.

A Taliban spokesman claimed yesterday that Hussein had been a “sleeper”, planted in the British ranks to carry out the killings as part of an undercover offensive.

However, British and Afghan officials say they have nothing to support this and the soldier's background in the Shia community in Ghazni did not point to links with the overwhelmingly Sunni Taliban.

A separate Taliban communiqué appeared to contradict the “sleeper” claim by saying that the renegade soldier had “surrendered” to them and “sought refuge” after fleeing from PB (Patrol Base) 3 in Nahr-e-Saraj, where he had carried out the attack.

Yesterday, the family of Lieutenant Neil Turkington, one of the murdered British officers, said they were “numb with grief” at their loss.

Lt Turkington (26), from Portadown, Co Armagh, was alongside a Nepalese-born non-commissioned officer when Hussein is said to have fired a rocket propelled grenade into the control room.

The Afghan soldier, who had been in the army for just over a year, then opened fire into a tent killing the company commander, a major, and injuring four others. The major was the most senior member of the British forces to die in Afghanistan since Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, commanding officer of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, last July. According to Afghan officials, Hussein appears to have carried out a pre-planned assault. He had taken advantage of being on guard duty to arm himself with a number of weapons and may have chosen the operations room for the first attack to disable control.

He then targeted the sleeping quarters used by the company commander and fled by climbing a reinforced wall.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai sent a letter of condolence to Britain, offering his apologies for the killings which came as a blow to the Nato mission to build up Afghanistan's police and army.

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