British PM: Christmas ‘heartbreaking’ for troops’ families
London - Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday urged Britons to remember this Christmas the families of troops killed in Afghanistan, for whom the festive season will be "heartbreaking".
The 103rd British soldier killed in the campaign this year died Saturday, the latest in an increasingly bloody war against Taliban insurgents which has dominated British politics this year.
Brown wrote in the Sunday Mirror newspaper of his "gratitude" for their sacrifice and "unsurpassed courage".
"I know that this year has tested your resolve more than any other," he wrote.
"And Christmas is a time when we once again reflect on those of your comrades who have given their lives for our cause.
"At home, we remember them with gratitude for we owe them a debt we can never fully repay — and we remember too the families they have left behind for whom Christmas will be a heartbreaking time."
The Sunday Mirror weekly tabloid shipped presents donated by readers to troops on the front line.
"As you unwrap them you will find that they have come from individuals who you will never know or ever meet," Brown said.
"Such a huge outpouring of appreciation is a reflection of the high esteem in which you are held by the British people."
The latest British soldier to die in Afghanistan this year was caught in an explosion while on foot patrol in the troubled southern Helmand province.
A total of 240 British troops have now been killed in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001, and the 103 deaths in 2009 make it the deadliest year for the country’s armed forces since the 1982 Falklands War with Argentina.
The majority of British fatalities have been caused by roadside bombs planted by the Taliban.
Brown’s government has faced accusations that the 10,000 British troops in Afghanistan are poorly equipped.
The government last week announced GBP 900 million (EUR one billion, USD 1.5 billion) for new helicopters and equipment for the war, but said it would have to close a military base and cut staff to pay for it.