British paratrooper killed on patrol may be victim of US 'friendly' fire

A BRITISH paratrooper killed in southern Afghanistan could have been shot by "friendly" cannon fire from a low-flying US plane, the Ministry of Defence said yesterday.

It is understood the jet was on a "strafing run" and had been called in by British troops involved in a gunfight with insurgents.

The soldier, from the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, died on Sunday as he patrolled the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand Province.

Two more servicemen were injured in the attack, sources said.

The MoD has launched a full investigation into the incident, the 11th suspected case of friendly fire since operations in Afghanistan began.

Military experts suggested the latest death could have been a case of "misidentification".

Professor Michael Clarke, director of the Royal United Services Institute, said it would most likely have occurred in "fraught" circumstances when the enemy was positioned immediately in front of British forces.

"It's usually a case of misidentification rather than weapons going astray – very few bombs miss the target for technical reasons," he said.

The soldier was part of an operation working to increase security in the district, Task Force Helmand spokesman Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman said.

"He has made the ultimate sacrifice protecting the people of Nad-e Ali from insurgent intimidation and defending his country from the threat of terrorism; no more could be asked of any soldier," he said. "He will be greatly missed by all who knew him."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Further to the announcement of the death of a soldier from 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment in Nad e-Ali yesterday, initial reports suggest that the death was caused as a result of a friendly fire incident."

The incident is also under investigation by the International Security Assistance Force.

The family of the serviceman have been informed.

A total of 346 UK military personnel have died since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001.