Northern Ireland

Tributes paid to NI serviceman killed by Afghan soldier

Tributes have been paid to 26-year-old Northern Ireland army officer Neal Turkington who was killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

He was one of three soldiers killed by a renegade Afghan soldier.

Lieutenant Turkington, from Portadown, was serving with the 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand province.

His commanding officer said he was "a true friend and a leader to whom his soldiers would entrust their lives".

Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Strickland said: "He was a courageous and determined platoon commander who was already known across the battalion as a man who could be trusted.

" I could not have asked for a better officer."

In a statement, Lieutenant Turkington's family said they were devastated with the news of his death.

"One of Neal's proudest moments was hearing that he had been commissioned to join the Royal Gurkha Rifles Regiment," the statement said.

"He felt honoured and privileged to serve with such distinguished, courageous and loyal men.

"Neal was jovial, kind, considerate and loyal to his family and friends.

"Our family were inspired by his presence, and generosity.

"He was relentless and steadfast in his pursuit of those causes he believed in with his passion for making a difference whatever the circumstance.

"We are all so proud of him - we couldn't have asked for a finer son, brother and friend."

The other two soldiers who were killed in the attack on Tuesday morning were Major James Joshua Bowman, from Wiltshire, and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun, from Nepal.

They also served in 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles.

Four soldiers were injured in the attack.

'Numbness'

The MP for Upper Bann, David Simpson, met the Turkington family on Tuesday night, hours after they received the news.

"The security forces have called at their home, so they haven't had a lot of detail yet," he said.

"They are going through a lot of emotions, a mixture of shock,numbness, sadness, everything rolled into one.

"I suppose it's going to take a few days for the whole circumstances of the tragedy to sink in but at this stage, there are still a lot more answers to get."

'Appalling'

The number of British military personnel killed on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 stands at 317.

Image caption Lieutenant Neal Turkington who was killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday

Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the killings as "appalling" but insisted that the attack should not change the strategy of working alongside the Afghan army.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has apologised to the UK after the incident and a defence ministry spokesman said a soldier from the Afghan National Army (ANA) was being sought.

British soldiers in Afghanistan have trained 130,000 Afghan troops since 2006, and 5,000 British troops are currently partnering members of the ANA.

It appears to be the third incident in which a member of the Afghan security forces has opened fire on British troops.

The BBC understands that one of the soldiers killed was shot. It is understood that other two were killed by a rocket propelled grenade.

There is a helpline number in the UK for concerned relatives - 08457 800900.