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British Peacekeeper Dies in Kabul - 2002-04-10

Spokesmen for the British peacekeepers in the Afghan capital, Kabul, are confirming the accidental death of one of their soldiers from a gunshot wound. Reports of the shooting briefly raised alarm about violence being directed toward the multinational peacekeeping force.

The British soldier was taking part in an eight-man foot patrol, Tuesday morning, in southwestern Kabul, when he was shot in the head.

The peacekeeping team was near Barjay village, which has been plagued by armed robberies and murders, in recent weeks.

Several soldiers have recently come under fire from gunmen in the capital. But Neal Peckham, the British spokesman for the multinational security force known as ISAF, says Tuesday's shooting was not deliberate. "It is under investigation by the Royal military police, the British police force. But we are satisfied that this was a tragic accident and there was no hostile fire involved," he explained. The soldier, who has not been identified, was from a battalion of the Royal Anglia Regiment. Some 500 troops from the battalion have been on duty with ISAF in Kabul for the past month. It was the first casualty for the British peacekeeping contingent, which makes up nearly half of the 4,800-strong ISAF force.

For the most part, ordinary Afghans have welcomed ISAF soldiers, deployed in January by a U.N. mandate to enhance security. But peacekeepers have been uneasy about unconfirmed reports that some groups, opposed to the interim government of Hamid Karzai, are plotting to attack troops and Westerners in the capital. ISAF believes one of its compounds was the target of an unsuccessful rocket attack, earlier this week.

The worst accident among the peacekeepers occurred last month, when an abandoned Soviet-era rocket being dismantled exploded, killing three Danish and two German soldiers.