We were ready to shoot down Prime Minister’s helicopter, claim Taleban
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
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.
Prime Minister David Cameron addresses British tropps at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan during his visit in June