Nine British soldiers injured in ‘friendly fire’

British Paratrooper from the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment in Upper Gereshk Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on 9 July 2008

Nine British soldiers have been injured in Afghanistan after coming under fire from one of their own helicopters.

The soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment battle group were on patrol in the Upper Gereshk Valley, Helmand, on Wednesday afternoon when they came under fire from suspected Taliban forces and called in air support. An Apache helicopter came to their aid, successfully firing upon the enemy position but then mistook British forces for insurgents and targeted them.

Last night the Ministry of Defence said an investigation was underway and one seriously injured soldier had been flown back to Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham. His condition was said to be stable.

Two more were receiving treatment at the field hospital in Camp Bastion but their injuries were not life-threatening, while six have returned to duty. All next of kin have been informed.

Last night the Army said the “friendly fire” incident had happened shortly after midday when the 2 Para patrol had called in air support near Forward Operating Base Gibraltar.

“After successfully engaging one enemy position the Apache fired upon another position which the crew believed to be held by enemy forces,” said a MoD spokesman. “However, in the confusion of a rapidly changing situation and, in what is a challenging environment, it would appear that friendly forces were mistaken for the enemy and as a result three members of the patrol were seriously wounded and six more were classified as walking wounded.”

This is not the first time coalition aircraft have mistakenly hit British troops in Afghanistan. In August last year, three soldiers from the 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment were killed when they called in support from two American F15 jets during a fire fight north-west of Kajaki and a bomb was dropped on their position.

The 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, has suffered a bloody few weeks, having had six members killed along with a Territorial Army soldier from 4 Para.