UK troops' safety in Afghanistan is priority, says government

Defence secretary Philip Hammond: "Pain feels more raw"

The government has insisted that the safety of UK troops in Afghanistan is its "priority".

Two soldiers, Sergeant Gareth Thursby and Private Thomas Wroe, were shot dead by a rogue Afghan soldier on Saturday, who turned on them after faking injury.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told MPs the pain caused by such attacks was "more raw", as it undermined efforts to work with Afghan forces.

He added that Nato would not change its strategy to be "derailed".

The statement came in response to an urgent parliamentary question by Labour MP Denis MacShane.

'Challenging'

Sgt Thursby, 29, and Pte Wroe, 18, both of 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, were killed in Helmand's Nahr-e Saraj district.

The killer lured them to his side with a fake injury before firing on them.

It is believed the incident could have been a "green-on-blue" attack. The term refers to the colour-coding systems used by the US military - Nato forces are "blue" and Afghans are "green".

British 'green-on-blue' deaths 2012

  • 26 March: Sgt Luke Taylor, 33, of Royal Marines; L/Cpl Michael Foley, 25, of Adjutant General's Corps
  • 12 May: L/Cpl Lee Davies, 27, of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards; Cpl Brent McCarthy, 25, RAF airman
  • 2 July: Guardsmen Craig Roderick, 22, and Apete Tuisovurua, 28, both of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards; Warrant Officer Class Two Perran Thomas, 44, of Royal Corps of Signals
  • 15 September: Sgt Gareth Thursby, 29, and Pte Thomas Wroe, 18, both of 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment

In a separate incident, Lance Corporal Duane Groom died when his vehicle struck an improvised bomb in Nahr-e Saraj. The 32-year old, who was born in Fiji, had been deployed since April.

Another attack last week on Camp Bastion, where many UK troops are based, saw two US marines killed.

Mr Hammond told MPs: "The security of our troops on the front line in Afghanistan, or for that matter anywhere in the world, remains our priority...

"In recent days we have again been reminded of the difficult and challenging environment in which our armed forces operate."

Private Thomas Wroe's parents, Michael and Claire, paid tribute to their "loveable lad"

He added: "We cannot and will not allow the strategy to be derailed... The pain felt is all the more raw when the incident undermines the trust that our armed forces have built in Afghanistan."

Mr Hammond said that an investigation was under way into the deaths of Sgt Thursby and Pte Wroe.

But former Conservative cabinet minister John Redwood called for UK troops to be withdrawn from their security role and brought home "in time for Christmas".

Labour MP made the same demand, during some heated scenes in the Commons chamber.

The total of British military personnel killed in Afghanistan since operations began 2001 stands at 430.

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