Yarmouth woman’s soldier son shot in Afghanistan “blood feud”

THE son of a Norfolk woman and four other British soldiers murdered by a rogue Afghan policeman were there because of a 'blood feud' between a police commander and the Taliban, an inquest heard.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Darren Chant, 40, was in the group gunned down without warning by an officer they had been living alongside at an Afghan National Police (ANP) checkpoint in Nad-e-Ali in Helmand Province on November 3, 2009.

He died alongside fellow Grenadier Guardsmen Sgt Matthew Telford, 37, and Guardsman Jimmy Major, 18 and Cpls Steven Boote, 22, and Nicholas Webster-Smith, 24, from the Royal Military Police.

Mr Chant's mother Elizabeth has lived in Great Yarmouth since 1987, but could not attend the first day of the inquest today at Trowbridge, although other relatives were present.

Lt Col Charles Walker, commander of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, told the inquest there were tensions between villagers living in Shin Kalay and the Afghan police.

'One of the local villager boys was a local Taliban commander and within the previous year he had been responsible in another area of the Nad-e-Ali district for appropriating land which was under the title of a police commander,' Lt Col Walker said.

He added the police commander learned who was responsible through his contacts and had engineered it so he ended up being the checkpoint commander at Blue 25 and from there he was trying through policing to get at the Taliban commander.

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He said: 'I think there was an element of blood feud which is a cultural practice.

'It became clear to me that there wasn't anything fundamentally wrong with the villagers - they weren't naturally aligned to the insurgents - they just wanted some security and they weren't getting it from the Afghan National Police.'

The officer said the dispute between the local Taliban commander and the police was 'driving a wedge' between the communities to the extent there were a number of allegations of corrupt policing and heavy handedness which was driving villagers to support the Taliban.

'The Taliban were able to support that saying 'we can do a better job than the police'.

'You had this checkpoint commander playing out a blood feud against a local Taliban commander and it was being played out among this village. The people were caught in the crossfire,' Lt Col Walker said.

Father-of-four WO1 Chant grew up in Luton and had served in the army since 1986, including the 1991 Iraq War, Northern Ireland and Bosnia, making him one of the regiment's most experienced soldiers.