Army foils plot to shoot down Cameron chopper
PM's helicopter diverted after phone intercepts reveal Taliban are aware of VIP visitor
The helicopter carrying Prime Minister David Cameron during his visit to Afghanistan yesterday had to be diverted after intelligence officers tapped into two telephone calls which suggested the Taliban were planning to shoot it down.
Cameron was unaware of the drama until the chopper landed. He was then told why they had touched down at the British Army's brigade headquarters in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, and not at the Shahzad forward base where the PM had been due to meet frontline troops.
The helicopter was within ten minutes' flying time of the potential hazard when the decision to abandon the visit was taken. It is understood that Cameron himself was not identified as the target in the first intercept, but that the telephone chatter in a second tapped call referred to the presence in the area of a VIP.
Senior officers drew the obvious conclusion and Brigadier Richard Felton, the commander on the ground, gave the order to abort the visit. "The [intelligence] taken together meant that it was too risky for the visit to go ahead," a senior government source said.
The PM's visit to Afghanistan, his first since he was elected last month, came during a period of heightened tension. The most graphic example of recent Taliban atrocities - reported yesterday on The First Post - was the hanging of a seven-year-old boy for spying in the Sangin district of Helmand.
Cameron was later able to join soldiers for a barbecue. It came at the end of day on which he made it clear the new government wishes to get Britain's 10,000 troops out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible.
"We should all the time be asking: can we go further, can we go faster? Obviously no one wants British troops to stay in Afghanistan for a day longer than is necessary. The president doesn't, the Afghan people don't, the British people don't."
Appearing with President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul, Cameron announced a series of measures intended to speed the process of stabilising the country so that Afghans could take control. These included doubling the number of teams dealing with improvised explosive devices - the notorious roadside bombs - and diverting an extra £200m to the Afghan campaign from the international development budget. ·
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