British Army soldier shot dead in Afghanistan

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A British army soldier was shot dead Saturday while manning a checkpoint in Afghanistan's troubled Helmand province, the Ministry of Defence said.

The Royal Gurkha Rifles soldier from the regiment's 2nd Battalion was killed during operations with Afghan police colleagues working to extend security in the Nahr-e Saraj region.

His death brings to 383 the number of British troops killed since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001. Of these, at least 338 were killed in combat. He is the 35th to die this year.

"Whilst protecting a checkpoint, his team came under insurgent small arms fire, during which he received a fatal gunshot wound," said Task Force Helmand spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Mackenzie.

The soldier's next of kin have been informed.

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

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

The Royal Gurkha Rifles recruit in Nepal.

About 200,000 Gurkhas fought for Britain in World War I and World War II and more than 45,000 have died in British uniform. They have a reputation for ferocity and bravery and are known for their distinctive curved knives.

© 2011 AFP

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