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Padiham family's grief as hero soldier is killed in Afghanistan
THE FAMILY of a soldier killed in a ‘green on blue’ attack in Afghanistan are from Padiham, it has emerged.
Sergeant Gareth Thursby’s family were too upset to talk yesterday as they await news of his repatriation.
He was shot on Saturday in an attack by a man wearing an Afghan police uniform — referred to as green on blue attacks.
The attack mirrors the killing of Lance Corporal Michael Foley, from Nelson, who died earlier this year when a renegade Afghan soldier tricked his way into a British base.
The killings have led to calls for NATO troops to abandon joint patrols with Afghan forces, something LCpl Foley’s family said should have happened ‘long ago’.
The mother of Sgt Thursby, Caroline Whitaker, now lives in Victoria Road, Padiham, with her husband, Brian.
Sgt Thursby, 29, who was born in Skipton, leaves behind a wife Louise, and two children, Joshua and Ruby.
Glowing tributes have been paid to the soldier, of the 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (3 YORKS), who died alongside his colleague Private Thomas Wroe, 18, on Saturday.
Sgt Thursby attended South Craven School, in Cross Hills, before joining the British Army on August 3, 1999. After completing his training in early 2000, he joined 1st Battalion The Duke of Wellington's Regiment.
His first deployment was to Kosovo in 2003 followed by Iraq in 2005. In October 2010 he was promoted to sergeant and assumed his role as a platoon sergeant in Alma Company.
Sgt Thursby’s wife Louise said: “Gareth was the love of my life. He was an amazing husband and father, happy, full of life and kind hearted with a passion for his work and family. He was brave, hardworking, a loving husband who was a devoted father to his children. Our hero.”
Lieutenant Colonel Zachary Stenning MBE, Commanding Officer for 3 YORKS, said Sgt Thursby was ‘one of our finest’.
He said: “His nickname 'Bull' epitomised everything; he was strong, confident and unbelievably robust.
“He was admired and deeply respected by his soldiers and peers for his soldiering skills, physical strength and forthright honesty.
“Having been his Company Commander and now Commanding Officer, I know just how committed to soldiering he was. However, against the hard exterior there was a caring and most compassionate leader.”
The family of LCpl Foley said the latest incident shows that joint patrols should have been axed long ago.
The 25 year-old’s family say that the move by Nato to restrict operations with Afghan troops is ‘too little too late’.
The former Barrowford County Primary School and Colne Primet High School pupil was a married father of three.
His cousin Cat Hewitt, 29, from Colne said that more should have been done to prevent Afghan 'green on blue' attacks.
She said: “It should never have been allowed to go on this long.
“The families of those killed are never going to get them back, everyday we miss Michael so much.
“It should never have happened in the first place. Our family feel that they should have never been working together in the first place, never mind training the Afghan soldiers just for them to turn around and shoot the British.
“Michael’s son has just started school and he never got see him in his uniform or take him for his first day. All our family are still so upset by what happened, I don’t think we will ever get over his death.”
Yesterday defence secretary Philip Hammond said that the ‘green on blue’ killings would not lead to a change British military operations in Afghanistan.
He said patrols with Afghans would continue ‘substantially unchanged’ after an order was made revising the way international troops train and mentor home-grown security forces.
Mr Hammond was summoned to the House of Commons to explain the impact of the announcement by the International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf) which will require approval from regional commanders for any joint patrols and advisory work with Afghan troops in units smaller than battalion level.
He told the House of Commons that there was no change to British strategy and that the timetable for withdrawal remained in place.
The attacks are so-called because Afghan National Security forces wear green, while NATO soldiers wear blue.
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