Off-duty Afghans killed corporals

KILLED Corporal David O'Connor
KILLED Corporal David O'Connor
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A MARINE from Havant was killed in Afghanistan after his foot patrol was attacked by two off-duty Afghan policemen, an inquest heard.

Cpl David O’Connor, 27, of 40 Commando were shot dead on October 24 last year in a suspected “green-on-blue” attack in Helmand’s Nahr-e Saraj district.

Cpl O’Connor had been working with Cpl Channing Day, 25, of 3 Medical Regiment and had been on their way to train local police in first aid and spotting roadside bombs when their patrol came under fire near the village of Char Kutsa.

Cpl Philip Benford, who was in command of the group of eight soldiers which contained Cpl O’Connor and Cpl Day, told the inquest at Oxford County Hall how he saw two men fire at the patrol with Kalashnikov weapons.

He described how his group had arrived outside a base called Checkpoint Lamar, and how his unit came under attack as he was sending their location to colleagues over his radio.

He said: ‘I distinctly remember that first initial contact. When I span round there was another fast, furious volley of rounds and it was from a gunman who ran behind the wall.’

The inquest heard how the troops fired back at their attackers, killing one of them who was wielding a Kalashnikov with distinctive bright-coloured tape wrapped around it.

Cpl Benford said he was positive there were two gunmen because the dead man he saw lying next to the bright-coloured weapon was wearing different clothes to his accomplice.

‘The shots I saw, I distinctly remember were from a guy with a dark overall and a light blue undergarment, which was very different from the garment which I passed as I was clearing the area,’ he said.

Cpl O’Connor was also deployed to Afghanistan at the end of September last year, as a section commander in the acting rank of corporal.

He lived with his mother Rosemary in Havant.

Cpl Day was the third British servicewoman to be killed in Afghanistan.

She was deployed to the country one month before the attack, and was based at Patrol Base One in the Nahr-e Saraj district, where she provided medical support to 40 Commando Royal Marines.

She was born in Swindon, Wiltshire, 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.

A forensic scientist gave evidence that the Kalashnikov weapon strapped with bright-coloured tape was not the rifle used to kill Cpl Day or Cpl O’Connor.

Cpl Benford told the inquest he could not tell which attacker fired the fatal shots at Cpl Day and Cpl O’Connor, and said he did not see the second gunman again after he ran behind the wall.

He described how when colleagues of the suspected gunmen arrived - other members of the Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) - they seemed casual and ‘at ease’.

‘When the police did arrive on the scene they were not helpful at all,’ he said.

Cpl Benford told the inquest that as he gave orders for them to help secure the area, they ‘were not very co-operative whatsoever’.

‘They felt almost safe and at ease,” he said. “Like they knew what was going on. They did not seem like people who had walked into a horrendous scene.’