Helicopter attack during PM's visit to Afghanistan in June would have been launched from base at Washir, spokesman claims.
The Taliban have claimed they planned to launch an attack on a helicopter carrying David Cameron, during his first visit to Afghanistan as prime minister in June, from a base in Helmand province.
Senior military figures called on Downing Street to urgently review security arrangements after reports that insurgents came closer to bringing down Cameron's helicopter than was previously thought.
The prime minister's plans were changed at the last minute when intercepts of Taliban radio messages indicated they knew which helicopter he was flying in to visit troops in the province.
Today's claims by the Taliban suggest that not only did insurgents monitor a broadcast press conference Cameron gave in Kabul with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, but they had detailed intelligence about his movements.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, told the BBC the attack would have been launched from their base at Washir, in the north-west of the main conflict zone in Helmand.
Cameron was forced to abandon a visit to the 1st Battalion of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment serving at the frontline patrol base at Shahzad because of fears of a Taliban attack. The RAF helicopter carrying the prime minister and his entourage was instead diverted to the main operating base in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand.
Intelligence intercepts of radio messages indicated an attack could be imminent and the commander of Taskforce Helmand, Brigadier Richard Felton, who was due to meet Cameron at the base, decided it was too dangerous for the visit to continue.
Cameron appeared unruffled by the incident at the time, with aides saying he was "disappointed" that he was unable to meet soldiers at Shahzad.
The Times reported that two Taliban conversations about an attack were intercepted, the second containing precise information about the helicopter carrying the prime minister.
Among the options now reportedly being urged on Downing Street is a total news blackout during future visits, to be lifted only when the prime minister has left the war zone.
In the past, visits to war zones by senior politicians and officials have been subject to news blackouts until nearer the end of the trip, as was the case with the recent journey by the defence secretary, Liam Fox.
A former British commander in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, told the BBC Today programme: "We sometimes underestimate the Taliban's sophistication [and] intelligence-collection capability, and they are very, very good at it."
The Taliban had "sources in many places", he said, including within the Afghan security forces and "even in military bases".
Kemp said it was important that people in Britain and Afghanistan were able to see the "commitment" of the prime minister, adding: "You can't hide behind security to the exclusion of all else. He has to be out and about, he has to be seen."
He suggested more attention should be given to the planning of future visits, with press conferences coming at the end of trips so as to minimise the amount of time available to the Taliban to plan any attack.
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"It's very important that we don't lose the prime minister," Kemp said. "The massive victory that we hand to the Taliban by shooting his helicopter down, or even a near miss, would be very significant."
At home, police have been concerned about Cameron's security and his insistence on walking around Whitehall and refusing motorcycle escorts. Downing Street declined to comment on security plans.
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