A British soldier was found executed by the Taliban last night.
The squaddie from the Royal Regiment of Scotland went for an early-morning swim, but disappeared from his base after finishing sentry.
He was discovered missing hours before Prime Minister David Cameron flew in to visit troops.
The soldier is the first to be snatched by the Taliban since the conflict in Afghanistan began 10 years ago.
A massive search, involving UK and US special forces, was launched for him amid fears he’d been kidnapped. It was called off last night after confirmation that he had been found. However, the Ministry of Defence would not reveal then what condition he was in.
It can now be confirmed that the soldier’s body was found two kilometres from his base in Helmand province.
He had been executed with a gunshot wound to the head.
Last night, Taliban leaders boasted that they had killed him following a firefight with western forces.
Spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said: “The soldier was captured yesterday evening during a firefight.
“When the fighting got more intense, we couldn’t keep him so we had to kill him.”
But officials from Isaf – the Nato-led mission in Afghanistan – said last night that there was no record of fighting in the area.
There were fears that the Taliban had snatched the soldier, who is from 4th Battalion The Highlanders, after being tipped off that Cameron was making a secret visit to the country yesterday.
There were also claims that he may have been betrayed and handed over to the Taliban by the Afghan soldiers.
Sources said the soldier disappeared shortly after he had finished sentry duty at Checkpoint Salaang in the Nahr-e Saraj district.
General Sayed Malook, the top Afghan commander in Helmand, said he was told the soldier and two Afghan troops went to a village for a swim.
He said: “A British soldier, along with two Afghan National Army soldiers, left their base in Nahr-e Saraj district and went to Kopak village to swim.
“When our two soldiers came out of the water, they couldn’t see him.”
After the body was found last night, task force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick said: “He had gunshot wounds. The circumstances are currently under investigation.
“It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
The soldier’s family have been told of his death.
Cameron was in Helmand to meet UK forces before announcing fresh cuts in their numbers tomorrow.
Parts of his visit had to be rearranged as resources were deployed in the search for the missing soldier.
The PM is expected to go ahead with his announcement to MPs that the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is safe enough to pull out hundreds of troops next year on top of 450 coming home this summer.
Speaking at Camp Bastion before the soldier’s body was found, Cameron called his disappearance a “very disturbing incident”.