A "rogue" Afghan policeman has shot dead five British servicemen after conducting a patrol with the troops in Helmand province.
He killed the soldiers, three from the Grenadier Guards and two from
the Royal Military Police, during a debrief in the Nad-e'Ali district
yesterday afternoon before fleeing.
He has yet to be found.
The Ministry of Defence
confirmed all the soldiers' next of kin have been informed.
From Helmand, British Forces spokesman Colonel Wakefield told Sky
News: "At the moment, it would appear an individual Afghan policeman
... started firing inside the checkpoint before fleeing the scene."
He said two parallel investigations by Afghan authorities and Britain's Royal Military Police will now take place.
Sky News chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay, also in Helmand, said
the incident came after British troops had placed more responsibility
in the country's authorities.
"They've been allowing the police to do a lot of the work on their own," he said.
"They've been out on patrol, they've been doing their debrief, it appears then that this Afghan opened up when they were inside."
Ramsay said the incident would force British troops to re-examine the trust invested in their Afghan colleagues.
"As a rule, they can trust the army, the police have always been a question mark," he said.
"They will hope he is just a rogue but there is concern there are more like him."British Prime Minister Gordon Brown
said: "The death of five brave soldiers in a single incident is a terrible loss.
"They fought to make Afghanistan more secure, but above all to make
Britain safer from the terrorism and extremism which continues to
threaten us from the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan."
In Kabul, former Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah
told Sky News' correspondent Alex Crawford: "It's a very tragic
incident. This is the last thing one would want to hear."
He said the incident represented an "absolute failure" of those in
charge of recruitment to the police force and accepted there may be
"endemic corruption" within their ranks.
Mr Abdullah added the instability within the forces was "a
consequence of the failures on the Afghan side in the past eight years".
Afghan authorities confirmed a policeman was responsible for the lone attack.
The five deaths bring this year's figure to 94 - making 2009 the
bloodiest year for the armed forces since the Falklands War in 1982.
The death toll in Afghanistan
since the conflict began in 2001 now stands at 229.
The announcement came as a former Foreign Office minister broke
ranks from Government policy on Afghanistan by calling for the majority
of Britain's troops to leave the country.
Kim Howells, who now chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee,
said the money saved by a phased withdrawal could be redirected to
fighting security threats at home.
He admitted his "Fortress Britain" strategy would inevitably involve "more intrusive surveillance in certain communities".
The Pontypridd MP, who strongly supported the war in Afghanistan
while at the FCO from 2005-08, insisted that he was speaking personally
and not on behalf of the Prime Minister-appointed ISC.
The Prime Minister insisted he remained committed to ensuring his
country's troops had "the best possible support and equipment - and the
right strategy, backed by our international partners, and by a new
Afghan government ready to play its part in confronting the challenges