Soldiers gunned down by rogue Afghan policeman were on a mission to help locals

INQUEST Warrant Officer First Class Darren Chant was killed in Afghanistan.
INQUEST Warrant Officer First Class Darren Chant was killed in Afghanistan.

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FIVE soldiers killed at a checkpoint by a rogue Afghan policeman had been sent to tackle problems with the local police force, an inquest heard.

Warrant Officer First Class Darren Chant, who was the father to three children who live in Horndean, was among five soldiers gunned down on November 3 2009.

WO1 Chant was in command of a unit sent to Blue 25 police checkpoint in the village of Shin Kalay, Nad-e’ Ali district, to iron out problems with the local force of the Afghan National Police (ANP).

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Walker, commander of the first battalion of the Grenadier Guards, told an inquest in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, that WO1 Chant and his men were sent to Blue 25 after reports that the police chief was ‘playing out a bloody feud’ with a local Taliban commander and the village was caught in the cross fire.

From meeting with village elders, Lt Col Walker said: ‘There were a number of allegations about corrupt policing and heavy handed-ness.

‘The way the police was behaving in the village was encouraging people in the village to support the Taliban.’

As a result of the problems in the area of Blue 25, Lt Col said it was decided that British troops be permanently based alongside the police force in a mentoring role.

‘We would be able to, by example, demonstrate what good soldiering looks like...what right looks like,’ said Lt Col Walker said.

WO1 Chant, who was the Regimental Sergeant Major for the Grenadier Guards, was sent to lead British troops in the mentoring role.

Lt Col Walker said: ‘Sgt Maj Chant was one of the most experienced Warrant Officers in the army. He had reached the highest rank in his ranks.

‘He was a very experienced trainer and a very courageous soldier. In him I had no doubt about this task under his leadership.’

The inquest heard WO1 Chant was concerned about the Afghan police.

Lt Col Walker said: ‘He did clearly have concerns about the quality of the police but that was exactly why he was there - there were genuine concerns about the lack of competent policing.’

Initially there were signs that WO1 Chant’s men were having a positive impact at Blue 25.

Lt Col said there was previously an average of one attack a day on the checkpoint, which had stopped entirely once the soldiers arrived because of the links they had built with the villagers.

But things went wrong two weeks later when, on November 3, one of the Afghan policemen, who coroner David Ridley named as a man called Gulbuddin, opened fire on the troops inside Blue 25 after they had returned from a routine patrol.

The gun man, who was reportedly a Taliban supporter, escaped from the scene.

The shooting killed five soldiers and injured six others.

The incident sent shock waves through the Afghan community, Lt Col Walker said.

‘The shame that the Afghan people felt after this incident was something I had not anticipated.

‘Interpreters working for us were saying they were ashamed to be Afghan.

‘This was a deeply, deeply shocking and dishonourable event as far as the formal Afghanistan chain of command in the army and the police was concerned.’

After the incident, Lt Col Walker said relations with the Afghan soldiers and police were stronger and a number of security ‘re-evaluations’ were ordered to prevent another attack at Blue 25 and other Afghan police checkpoints.

The inquest into the deaths of WO1 Chant, Sgt Matthew Telford, Guardsman James Major, Acting Cpl Steven Boote and Cpl Nicholas Webster-Smith is due to continue until Friday.