350th British soldier killed in Afghanistan

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A British soldier was killed by an explosion in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, the 350th to die in operations in the country, the Ministry of Defence in London said.

The soldier, from 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, was on an operation in the troubled southern Helmand Province aimed at providing security to the local population, it said.

The death brings to 350 the number of British troops killed since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001. Of these, at least 308 were killed through hostile action.

"The soldier was assisting in the clearance of an area to the south of Nahr-e Saraj in order to provide a safe and secure environment for the local population, when he was hit by an explosion," Task Force Helmand spokesman Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman said in a statement.

"He has given his life in the service of others, fighting oppression and intimidation -- no more could be asked of any soldier."

The soldier's next of kin have been informed.

He was the second British Army soldier to die in the country this year, after a Fijian private was killed on New Year's Day.

A total of 103 British soldiers were killed in operations last year, the second bloodiest on record for British troops following the 108 killed in 2009 -- more than double the 2008 toll.

The rate of British troops being killed has dropped since September 2010 when they handed over to US forces in the flashpoint market town of Sangin in Helmand.

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.

They are based in Helmand, battling Taliban insurgents and increasingly training local security forces.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said that Britain could start withdrawing forces from Afghanistan this year, with all troops being out of a combat role by 2015.

© 2011 AFP

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