Soldier, 19, died in 'friendly fire' exchange

Confusion and a breakdown in communication may have led to the accidental death of a teenager soldier who was shot in the head in a "friendly fire" gunfight, a coroner said yesterday.

Troops of the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment and the Afghan National Army mistakenly thought each were the Taliban as both unknowingly conducted night-time patrols near the same village.

The blunder led to both sets of soldiers firing at each other close to the 2nd Battalion's patrol base in Helmand Province in Afghanistan and resulted in the death of Kingsman Sean Dawson, 19, from Stalybridge, Greater Manchester.

There was no radio contact between both parties and the two Afghan troops – who were also killed – had no night-vision equipment and could not see who was attacking them.

Kingsman Dawson was part of a team ordered to shoot on sight any armed insurgents following intelligence the Taliban had been sighted 250 metres from the base on the previous two nights before the fatal shooting on February 14 last year.

His commanding officer, Major Alan Sweeney, told an inquest at Stockport that thermal imaging cameras picked up between two and four men acting suspiciously on February 12 and 13.

They were in bushes close to a compound near to the village of Yatimachay and they appeared to be carrying long-barrelled weapons.

The inquest heard a mentoring officer to the Afghan National Army said that on occasions "some things were lost in translation" with their counterparts.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Coroner John Pollard said: "Sean Dawson was shot in the head and neck by members of the Afghan National Army who thought they were under attack from the enemy.

This occurred potentially as a result of confusion or a breakdown in communication.