A SCOTTISH soldier gunned down by a rogue member of the Afghan army while playing a football match on Remembrance Day was killed almost instantly by a gunshot wound to the chest, an inquest heard today.
Captain Walter Barrie, from Penicuik in Midlothian, was playing in a match with members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and one other British soldier at his base on November 11 last year when he was shot at close range in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province, Oxford Coroner’s Court heard.
The gunman, referred to as “S” during the hearing, was dressed in full ANA uniform when he approached the pitch and fired nine shots towards Capt Barrie using an M16 rifle. As the other soldiers fled, “S” moved towards a welfare tent for British troops and continued firing.
The attack was stopped when the Afghan soldier was shot in the thigh, shoulder and head and detained by Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) soldiers, the inquest heard.
Intelligence officers had warned British troops of insider attacks after a similar incident in western Afghanistan on November 10. Sixty per cent of these are followed by another within 72 hours, the hearing was told.
Capt Barrie had been advising a brigade of the ANA on taking over security in an area of southern Afghanistan. The 41-year-old, of the Royal Scots Borderers, had served for 25 years, including tours of Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.
A post mortem examination revealed he died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Consultant forensic pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt said the injury had caused “extremely rapid loss of consciousness and death”.
In a statement released after Capt Barrie’s death, his widow Sonia said: “Captain Walter Barrie was a great man, a doting and amazing father and a fantastic husband. He was much loved and will be missed by many.”
The gunman, who was described as being in late teens or early 20s, died from his injuries following the fatal assault on Capt Barrie.
Colour Sergeant George Parker said he understood the rogue soldier was Mohammad Ashraf, whose brother was responsible for an attack on Spanish forces in Afghanistan days earlier.
Private Ryan Houston, who was patrolling the base, told the hearing that he was alerted to the attack when he heard “a burst of fire”.
“I turned in the direction of the football pitch but I did not see the person holding the weapon,” he said. “Capt Barrie was not moving and appeared motionless. I think I shouted ‘man down’.”
A smoke grenade was thrown on to the pitch to conceal Capt Barrie’s body from the killer and allow medics to reach him. Clr Sgt Parker said that after hearing the shots, he exchanged fire with the Afghan soldier. “I believe because he was firing from the hip, he was not accurate at all,” he said.
He and Pte Houston later approached the Afghan soldier as he lay on the floor with a gunshot wound to the head. “I could see he was injured,” Pte Houston said. “He was alive, he was making gasping sounds.”
Clr Sgt Parker said relations with ANA members were “generally very good” and they would play football with British troops on an almost daily basis.
Andrew Lumley, commanding officer of D Company, 1 Scots, told the inquest that Ashraf had been based at a checkpoint 150 metres from the base and had gained access by an entrance controlled by the ANA. There had been no “specific intelligence” linking the rogue soldier with the attack on Spanish troops in Bagdhis prior to Capt Barrie’s death, he said.
“Over the days that came after Capt Barrie’s death, more information began to come about the individual involved,” he said.
“As far as I know … the individual in Bagdhis was related to Mohammad Ashraf.”
Recording his verdict, Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter said Capt Barrie was unlawfully killed while on active service.
“It does appear the individual acted alone and there has been no evidence linked to insurgents or the Taleban,” he said.
Mr Salter said finding the motive behind the killing involved “a degree of speculation”, although it was thought to have been linked to the earlier insider attack on Spanish troops, in which the rogue soldier’s brother was wounded.