By Rob Crilly
The Taliban in Afghanistan have captured a British special forces dog, parading the forlorn-looking animal in a triumphant online video.
In footage released on a militant website on Wednesday, long-haired gunmen showed off various spoils of war, including captured weapons and a subdued-looking canine held by a chain.
The gunmen say it was snatched from American troops, however military sources disputed that account, saying it was a British dog working with the SAS.
“This dog was named after a colonel,” said one of the fighters. “It had a torch on it and its neck wore a GPS.”
It wears the sort of complex shoulder harness used by military dogs so they can be hoisted rapidly in and out of helicopters and difficult terrain.
It looks better fed than local breeds and resembles a Belgian shepherd, favoured by the military for its endurance.
A Taliban spokesman said the dog was captured during a raid in the Laghman province east of Kabul on December 23.
Pentagon officials said the dog is believed to have been captured around December 23.
The date coincides with a British operation east of Kabul in which a special forces soldier, Captain Richard Holloway of the Royal Engineers, was killed.
The MOD in London declined to comment. A spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance force in Kabul, confirmed that a dog had gone missing during a mission in December.
Dogs are used extensively by coalition forces in Afghanistan. Some work sniffing out IEDs, weapons or drugs while others have a search and rescue role.
Last year it emerged that four dogs – two Labradors, a Springer spaniel cross and a Belgian shepherd – had died working alongside their Army handlers in Helmand since March 2011.
Four years ago, an Australian bomb-sniffing dog was lost in Afghanistan and then adopted by a Taliban leader who tried to sell her back.
Sabi, a black Labrador, was eventually recovered by an American special forces soldier who retrieved her from an unnamed man in north-eastern Oruzgan.
For years the Taliban have railed against infidel dogs who have invaded Afghanistan. Now it seems they have caught one.