A single shot fired by an insurgent 'sharpshooter' killed two British soldiers in Afghanistan, an inquest heard today.
Private Lewis Hendry, of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, and Private Conrad Lewis, of 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, were both killed by the same bullet fired by a Taliban sniper.
They had been patrolling an area said to be crawling with snipers in the north of the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand Province in February.
An inquest in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, heard Privates Hendry and Lewis were taking part in a foot patrol with the Afghan National Army when they came under fire.
The purpose of the patrol had been to find enemy snipers' nests and to reassure the population in a small village.
The day before, another patrol had been attacked by accurate small arms fire from the same area.
The men had left Checkpoint Qudrat, in the northern part of Nad-e Ali, on the morning of February 9, knowing that insurgents were aware of their patrol.
Sergeant Major Christopher Smith, of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, led the patrol in an area which he said was 'probably one of the most dangerous places to go out'. 'The main threat, known to everyone, was a sharpshooter. In this instance there was more than one,' he said.'Conrad was the point man, he was a very important part of the patrol, he was the eyes and ears up front. Lewis was one of two behind him.'
The inquest heard the patrol left in a single-file formation with Private Hendry and Private Lewis at the front.
The patrol was moving across an area of compounds and became aware of Afghan men running around in the area of 'compound 31', although they appeared to be unarmed.'We thought we were being watched as soon as we left the checkpoint,' Sergeant Major Smith said.
'A single round was shot from compound 31. It was quite accurate.'
The inquest heard that shot passed through the legs of one of the other members of the patrol.
After the shot, Sergeant Major Smith sent a report back to base warning that there were snipers lurking in the area.
'The boys reacted, firing back. About five to six seconds after that the call came, man down,' Sergeant Major Smith told the inquest. He said the time from the first shot to the second shot was only about 10 seconds.
The inquest heard the men were kneeling down behind a wall when the shot hit Private Hendry in the head, leaving his body and then hitting Private Lewis in the neck.
Their comrades rushed to treat their wounds while the patrol continued to take fire.
A statement from Soldier A, a member of the special forces support group and Afghan National Army mentor, was read to the court by coroner David Ridley.
'His recollection was that from the intelligence insurgents were aware of the patrol. 'He was up front with Conrad and Lewis. They shouted for a target indication following the first shot.'They did not appear to know where the compound was, they were shoulder to shoulder on bent knee and had a map out.'He recalls a single shot, he'd just shouted where compound 31 was, that's when they both fell to the right, on top of him.'
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