British soldier will not be charged over killing of Afghan

Prosecutors have decided not to charge a British soldier with the murder of an Afghan man.

Duane Knott, a member of the Territorial Army, came under investigation after shooting dead a man who had been digging near a military base in Afghanistan.

Knott said he believed the man was laying explosives intended to kill British soldiers. Military police started a murder investigation after his superiors suspected the man may have been an innocent farmer.

The Service Prosecuting Authority, set up to conduct independent prosecutions of military personnel, has concluded after a "time-consuming and thorough investigation" that there was no "realistic prospect of a conviction in this case".

Bruce Houlder, the head of the SPA, said: "In the light of the evidence now presented to me, I am satisfied that no evidence exists to justify criminal proceedings being taken against this soldier."

Knott told the Sunday Telegraph in January that he had been right to shoot the man.

He had been undertaking sentry duties inside a fortified compound in Helmand in June 2010. Knott had been told to watch a man who was digging in a field 400 metres from the base as he might be about to plant a home-made bomb, according to the paper.

The fusilier said he saw the man disappear into bushes and return holding an object he believed was a bomb, wrapped in a bag, the paper said.

He was quoted as saying: "I shot him twice in his back. He was sat down. He didn't move. So I shot him a further twice. He rolled over and kept on going for the bag, so I shot him a further twice and that was it. Six in all."

Houlder said the decision not to prosecute Knott was taken following legal advice from a barrister and "takes full account of all operational factors that had relevance to the events surrounding the shooting of this Afghan civilian".

The Guardian disclosed last month that there have been eight prosecutions of British soldiers accused of killing or injuring Afghan civilians since January 2005.

Documents obtained under freedom of information laws show the Royal Military police have started at least 126 investigations into alleged killings by British forces of at least 44 civilians and the wounding of 46 others in Afghanistan in the past seven years. At least three of them have centred on murder allegations.