We were ready to shoot down Prime Min­is­ter’s heli­copter, claim Taleban

The Scotsman - - News - tom PEtErKIn

THE Taleban planned to shoot down david Cameron’s heli­copter from a base in afghanistan, the ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion claimed yes­ter­day af­ter de­tails emerged of a nar­row es­cape for the Prime Min­is­ter.

The claims, which ex­perts said should be treated with scep­ti­cism, were made af­ter it was re­vealed that Mr Cameron’s Chi­nook made an emer­gency di­ver­sion as it flew to­wards army bases when the premier vis­ited north-west Hel­mand in June.

Mr Cameron was fly­ing above the prov­ince in south­ern afghanistan, a no­to­ri­ous Taleban strong­hold.

His flight path was changed at the last minute when in­ter­cepts of Taleban ra­dio mes­sages showed that they knew which heli­copter he was fly­ing in. His flight was di­verted to the main op­er­at­ing base in the cap­i­tal of Hel­mand, Lashkar gah, at the last minute.

no shots were fired, but two Taleban con­ver­sa­tions about an at­tack were in­ter­cepted – the sec­ond con­tain­ing pre­cise in­for­ma­tion about Mr Cameron’s heli­copter.

Yes­ter­day a Taleban spokesman said the at­tack would have been launched from a base in Washir, north-west of the main con­flict zone in Hel­mand. down­ing Street said it did not com­ment on the Prime Min­is­ter’s se­cu­rity plans.

Taleban spokesman Qari Yousef ah­madi yes­ter­day di­vulged the lo­ca­tion of the base, which the ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion claims the at­tack was to be launched from.

But he would not re­veal the source of the Taleban’s in­for­ma­tion about the route taken by the flight, nor the weapons they were plan­ning to use.

Mr Cameron’s lo­ca­tion was known be­cause, un­usu­ally, he had made a visit to Kabul first, hold­ing a me­dia con­fer­ence with afghanistan’s Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai, to Hel­mand.

He flew out of Camp Bas­tion to see Bri­tish troops work­ing at Shahzad pa­trol base with Sir Jock Stir­rup, the Chief of the de­fence Staff, and gu­lab Man­gal, the gover­nor of Hel­mand Prov­ince.

Mr Cameron was then forced to aban­don a visit to Bri­tish troops serv­ing at the front-line pa­trol base at Shahzad.

It was then that nato in­tel­li­gence ser­vices in­ter­cepted tele­phone calls sug­gest­ing that the Taleban were plot­ting to tar­get a VIP they de­scribed as the “Big Com­man­der”.

Yes­ter­day re­ports sug­gested that the Taleban had iden­ti­fied the sec­ond heli­copter fly­ing in a two-air­craft con­voy as the one car­ry­ing the Prime Min­is­ter.

In­tel­li­gence was re­ceived

be­fore

go­ing on within five min­utes of take-off and the Chi­nook’s pi­lot was or­dered to make al­ter­na­tive ar­range­ments.

num­ber 10 is re­ported to be re­think­ing sched­ul­ing and me­dia plans for fu­ture prime min­is­te­rial vis­its to take the risks into ac­count.

down­ing Street is said to be grow­ing in­creas­ingly concerned that the Taleban’s in­tel­li­gence is be­com­ing ever more so­phis­ti­cated.

among the op­tions un­der­stood to be un­der con­sid­er­a­tion are me­dia black­outs un­til af­ter the Prime Min­is­ter leaves the war zone.

a prece­dent on this was set when a re­port­ing ban was im­posed on the de­fence Sec­re­tary Liam Fox’s visit to afghanistan this month.

Pic­ture: PA

Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron ad­dresses Bri­tish tropps at Camp Bas­tion in Afghanistan dur­ing his visit in June

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