msnbc.com
updated 7/16/2010 4:50:19 AM ET 2010-07-16T08:50:19

A man claiming to be a renegade Afghan soldier who killed three British troops has said he turned on them because foreign forces were killing children.

BBC News reported its Kabul bureau was contacted by the Taliban and given a mobile phone number of an intermediary to call. The phone was then passed to a man who said he was Talib Hussain, who is reportedly being hunted by U.K. special forces in the wake of Tuesday's attack.

The three soldiers, Major Josh Bowman, of Wiltshire, England, Lieutenant Neal Turkington, of Craigavon, Northern Ireland, and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun, of Nepal, died Tuesday when Hussain fired a rocket-propelled grenade and his gun at a base in Helmand province.

BBC journalist Dawood Azami said he interviewed Hussain, 21, for about 10 minutes.

"He told me he was angry at the conduct of British troops in Helmand province," Azami said. "He accused them of killing civilians, including children.

"When I challenged him that civilians had been killed in Taliban attacks too, he said that the Taliban were Mujahideen fighting for their own country," Azami added. "He also said that British soldiers were not there to secure and reconstruct Afghanistan. He said the shooting of British soldiers was his own idea, and that he had had no contact with the Taliban, Iran or Pakistan beforehand.

"It was only after the shooting that he had joined the Taliban," Azami said.

Azami said it was not possible to say for sure the man was the same person who had killed the troops, but added he was able to correctly provide his name, age, ethnicity, home village and the duration of his military service.

'Cowardly attack'
In a statement, U.K.'s Ministry of Defence told the BBC: "We are aware that an individual has contacted the media claiming responsibility for the killing of three British soldiers on Tuesday morning in Helmand Province.

"While we cannot comment on the legitimacy of this individual's claims to be the suspect responsible for this cowardly attack, it is ridiculous to suggest that we are engaged in suicide attacks or are deliberately killing civilians," it added.

"Insurgents and those who are against the coalition mission in Afghanistan routinely make false and exaggerated claims and so care must be taken not to accept their accounts at face value," the ministry said.

Writing in the London Evening Standard, Patrick Hennessey, who served with U.K. forces in Afghanistan in 2007, where he was commended for gallantry, suggested Hussain may have cracked under the pressure of the war.

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"Soldiers turning their weapons on their comrades has a regrettable pedigree. From the shooting of the commanding officer by a man he had ordered flogged as far back as 1815 during the Battle of Quatre Bras to Americans 'fragging' officers during the Vietnam war, such incidents invariably indicate are men under tremendous pressure," he wrote.

He said the fact Hussain was "Hazara — an ethnic group persecuted by the Taliban and who have made generally more reliable soldiers and policemen than the more ambiguously aligned Pashtuns — suggests that this was the act of a broken individual."

Hennessey, author of The Junior Officers' Reading Club, added: "While British brigades rotate through Afghanistan on a roughly six-monthly basis and their American counterparts conduct 12-month tours (which many psychiatric experts assess to be too long), the Afghan soldiers spend their entire military careers on the front line."

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Video: Renegade Afghan soldier kills 3 U.K. troops

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