British Afghan death toll passes grim milestone

22nd June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain announced Tuesday another soldier's death in Afghanistan, taking its military death toll to 301, a day after the grim 300 milestone was reached.

The latest victim, from the 40 Commando Royal Marines, died Monday evening in the Sangin district in southern Afghanistan, said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in London.

"He had recently returned from a patrol when he was killed by an explosion," said Lieutenant Colonel James Carr-Smith, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, in an MoD statement.

"He had been improving the lives of local Afghans and helping to protect them from the insurgency. He died a marine. He will be greatly missed and his sacrifice will not be forgotten. We will always remember him," he added.

On Monday the MoD announced the 300th military death in Afghanistan since 2001, prompting Prime Minister David Cameron to pledge to withdraw troops as soon as the war-torn state can handle its own security -- but not before.

The landmark comes during a year which has already seen the second-highest number of British fatalities since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 -- 55 -- and amid signs that most Britons want troops to be pulled out.

Britain has around 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, making it the second largest contributor after the United States to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Its troops are based in the troubled southern Helmand province, battling Taliban insurgents and training local security forces.

The death toll in Afghanistan has risen steadily since 2006 and the number of fatalities surged in 2009, when 108 troops died, many killed by makeshift bombs. The death toll reached 200 on August 15 last year.

© 2010 AFP

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