Friendly fire soldiers 'requested missile be fired'

(l-r) Captain Tom Sawyer, of the Royal Artillery, and Corporal Danny Winter, of the Royal Marines Image copyright PA
Image caption Capt Tom Sawyer, of the Royal Artillery (L), and Cpl Danny Winter, of the Royal Marines (r), died in 2009

Two UK soldiers killed in a friendly-fire incident had repeatedly asked for an anti-tank missile which killed them to be fired, an inquest has heard.

Capt Tom Sawyer, 26, and Cpl Danny Winter, 28, died in the explosion in southern Afghanistan in January 2009.

A senior Danish officer insisted British troops had "pushed" for the Javelin missile to be deployed.

The two Britons had been taking part in a joint operation with soldiers from the Danish army against the Taliban.

Capt Sawyer, from Hertfordshire, and Cpl Danny Winter of Stockport, Greater Manchester, were killed on a rooftop close to Forward Operating Base Gibraltar in Helmand province.

Capt Sawyer, of the Royal Artillery was a fire support team commander attached to Zulu Company, 45 Commando Royal Marines.

Cpl Winter was with the mortar troop of Zulu Company, 45 Commando Royal Marines.

They were providing fire support for an operation clearing Taliban compounds, north-east of Gereshk, when the incident happened.

Two other members of Zulu Company were injured in the explosion.

Image copyright Ben Birchall
Image caption British troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 2014

The missile itself was fired by British troops on the order of the Danish officer, referred to as Soldier A, the inquest in Salisbury, Wiltshire, has heard.

The Danish soldiers have declined to attend the inquest and their evidence has been given in witness statements.

The Danish officer commanding the operation, known as Soldier B, explained his soldiers, including a British missile team with night sight equipment, were on the roof of a compound.

Soldier B insisted that the missile operators had positively identified enemy insurgents crawling into position on the roof of a building.

In a written statement, he said they had spent nearly an hour trying to locate Zulu Company.

He said: "Zulu Company asked repeatedly for us to engage the Javelin missile as they could see light about 100 metres from their position, which is why they were convinced they were soon to be attacked.

"The Javelin men confirmed several times they had clearly identified [the enemy] and requested permission to neutralise.

"Soldier A ordered the Javelin marksman to fire off a shot towards the target.

"Immediately afterwards the Rifleman fired a rocket and reported he had hit the target but the target was still moving about, which is why he requested permission to fire again.

"Soldier A wanted a positive confirmation from Zulu Company that the enemy had been hit before firing again, so he refused to let them fire."

The inquest was adjourned until tomorrow.