An old Etonian Army officer was shot in the head and killed by a supposed Afghan ally moments after cheerfully returning a weapon to his killer following a meeting.
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Lt Edward Drummond-Baxter was shot dead at close range alongside LCpl Siddhanta Kunwar before the killer fled and escaped. An inquest heard 29-year-old Lt Drummond-Baxter laughed as he handed over the AK-47 to the young killer, only for the Afghan to cock the weapon and open fire. Witnesses said it was still unclear if the unnamed killer was a genuine policeman when he struck at a small checkpoint in Helmand province last year. The hearing at Oxford Guildhall into the deaths of the two soldiers of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, heard he was well known to troops as a local villager.But he had turned up wearing police uniform at the checkpoint in Nahr-e Saraj before and a previous British commander at the base had raised suspicions about the man.
The inquest heard the killings took place after a meeting with local residents at Checkpoint Prrang on October 30, 2012. The killer, who was described as aged 19 or 20, turned up at the gate saying he wanted to speak to an interpreter. He was sent away, but returned to ask again after spending 15 minutes talking to farmers nearby. Lt Drummond-Baxter let him in and disarmed him and after the other guests had departed he and interpreters chatted with the man, who told him: “You are my friend, a very good friend”.
The killer asked for boots he claimed to have been promised, but when told there were none, he asked to leave and was escorted to the gate by the interpreters and LCpl Kunwar, while the commander went to retrieve his weapon. Neither of the victims were wearing body armour or helmets, but both carried pistols as they approached the gate. The interpreter said: “The [policeman] was stood level with the commander and close to him.
“The commander handed him his weapon. I think the magazine was already fitted.
“[The policeman] loaded it. The commander didn’t seem concerned.
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The mood was good, it was friendly. He had laughed. He turned his face back towards the policeman and as he did the policeman started shooting.
“It was the commander’s face he was aiming at.”
LCpl Kunwar, 28, of Pokhara in Nepal, was shot twice through the chest. Another soldier in a nearby watchtower tried to return fire but the killer fled to nearby cover and has still not been traced. Lt Drummond-Baxter, who left the Foreign Office to join the Army, had told his family the Taliban were trying to kill him, proving he was doing a good job. The officer, from County Durham, was just a month into his first deployment to Afghanistan when he died. There had been a grenade attack three days earlier and someone had fired a shot at his patrol base’s raised CCTV camera on the morning of the fatal attack.
Lt Henry Smith, the previous commander of the checkpoint who handed over to Lt Drummond-Baxter, told the hearing he had viewed the Afghan as suspicious and had passed that information on. The killer had a brother in the police and some villagers had accused him of consorting with the Taliban. When he unexpectedly turned up one day in uniform Lt Smith had checked with Afghan officials and been told the man had begun police training and was allowed to carry a weapon. But Lt Smith said he was “deeply shocked” to hear the man had turned out to be a killer and would have handled the situation on the day in exactly the same was as Lt Drummond-Baxter.
The inquest continues.