Page last updated at 18:23 GMT, Tuesday, 16 February 2010

'Friendly fire' probe over Afghanistan soldier death

Kingsman Sean Dawson
Kingsman Sean Dawson was killed as a result of small arms fire

A British soldier killed in southern Afghanistan on Sunday may have been accidentally shot by a comrade, the Ministry of Defence has said.

Kingsman Sean Dawson, from Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, died in Musa Qala, Helmand. An investigation is under way.

The death of the 19-year-old, of 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, was unrelated to the ongoing offensive involving 15,000 Nato troops.

A total of 261 UK personnel have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Early indications suggest that [Kingsman Dawson's] death was possibly caused as a result of 'friendly fire'.

"This is currently being investigated and no further comment can be made until the inquest."

In December, the MoD launched investigations into the deaths of two soldiers in separate possible "friendly fire" incidents near Sangin, in Helmand.

Kingsman Sean Dawson was in every way a fighter, an English fighter extraordinaire; a true lion of England
Lt Col Robbie Boyd

Royal Military Policeman L/Cpl Pritchard, 22, was killed by "small arms fire" five days before Christmas, while 23-year-old L/Cpl Christopher Roney, of 3rd Battalion, The Rifles, died two days later.

It prompted Col Richard Kemp, former commander of UK forces in Afghanistan, to say such incidents happened "all the time" in the confusion of conflict.

Tributes were paid to Kingsman Dawson after the MoD released his name.

His father, also Sean, said his death would leave a hole in the lives of everyone who knew him.

He said his son had wanted to join the forces since the age of six, and "loved everything about the Army - it was his life".

"Before he went to Afghanistan he took part in the Battalion Boxing Championships in Cyprus and won the Light Welterweight title as well as the prize for the 'Most Courageous Fighter' - that was Sean.

"He believed in everything he was doing in Afghanistan and even though he was apprehensive, he couldn't wait to get out there.

"His immediate family and girlfriend Sadie loved him dearly and he will always be in our hearts," he said.

Lt Col Robbie Boyd, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, said Kingsman Dawson was in "every way a fighter, an English fighter extraordinaire; a true lion of England".

'Vital contribution'

His "courage, fitness and determination" had impressed both in Afghanistan and in the boxing ring, he added.

Major Alan Sweeney, Company Commander, of 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, said the soldier was "dedicated to his profession, his colleagues and his family".

Kingsman Dawson joined the 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment in September 2008 and had served in Catterick and Cyprus.

He was employed as a sharpshooter within a sniper pair and was responsible for identifying and engaging insurgents that posed a threat to both Afghan and British soldiers, as well as Afghan locals.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of the death.

He said: "A highly skilled and courageous sharpshooter as well as a popular and kind-hearted member of his battalion, he will be sorely missed.

"His vital contribution to ensuring the safety and security of Afghanistan and the UK will not be forgotten. My thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time."

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