Four deadly foreign mercenary snipers hired by the Taliban have been killed after being tracked down by British Special Forces in Afghanistan.
They were among at least three pairs of crackshots recruited by the Taliban from Pakistan, Egypt and Chechnya.
The mercenaries – who can kill troops at a range of up to 650 yards – are understood to have shot dead up to ten British soldiers in recent weeks.
The victims include Sapper Darren Foster, 20, from Whitehaven, Cumbria. He was picked off from long distance by a single shot which went through a gap just 9in wide in a protected look-out post in Sangin valley, Helmand Province.
News of the Taliban deaths came as a British soldier was killed during a firefight with insurgents yesterday as he provided security for a meeting between Afghan elders and Nato forces.
The soldier, from the 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, was killed during an exchange of fire in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand.
Lieutenant-Colonel James Carr-Smith, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: ‘He died in the course of his duty. He will be sorely missed and his actions will not be forgotten. We will remember him.’ His next of kin have been informed.
The death brings to 332 the number of British troops killed in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001.
It was in Sangin ten days ago that the first two foreign ‘dogs of war’ met their deaths. A second pair were killed on Friday.
In both cases, elite SAS and SBS troops, working with crack US and Afghan Special Forces, were involved in the covert hunt for the snipers.They had orders to ‘take out’ the deadly riflemen who have caused havoc among coalition forces with their so-called ‘fire and run’ tactics.
Senior military sources told The Mail on Sunday that locals tipped off Afghan National Army troops of the exact locations of the snipers.
Once the identities of the sharpshooters had been confirmed through close surveillance, Special Forces teams called in an air strike.
The pilots of US F-16 jets were sent the precise co-ordinates to target their high-explosive bombs in order to eliminate the enemy without killing or injuring innocent civilians.
A military insider said last night: ‘These foreign snipers are crackshots who work in teams of two – one spotting the target, the other firing the fatal shot.
‘Once they have hit their target, they disappear and find a new location. The trouble is that we can take two snipers out and another two will be recruited to replace them.’
British commanders have become increasingly concerned at the number of troops killed by gunfire rather than roadside bombs, and the fact that the Taliban is using specialist foreign snipers.
Major-General Gordon Messenger, an MoD spokesman for Afghanistan, said: ‘What the guys are seeing on the ground, not just in Sangin but also in Nad-e Ali, is an increased use of the tactic of single shots at range.
‘It would be vastly overplaying the professionalism and the effect of these people to call them snipers. But, of course, we’re adjusting our tactics to counter it.’
* Six Afghan policemen were found shot dead yesterday in their station house in Helmand Province and three more were accidentally killed by friendly fire in the north of the country, a Nato spokesman said last night.
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