British soldier killed in Afghanistan attack

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A British soldier was shot dead in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan on Saturday, bringing to 374 the number killed in operations there since 2001, the defence ministry said.

The serviceman from 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Staffords) died on a patrol with the Afghan National Army in the Nahr-e Saraj district of the troubled southern province of Helmand, it said.

The patrol deployed from a nearby base to meet with people who had recently re-occupied the Haji Tor Aga Kalay area in the province, said Task Force Helmand spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick.

"The soldier was part of the protective cordon guarding the meeting when insurgents engaged them with small arms fire during which he was fatally wounded. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends," Purbrick said.

His family have been informed, the statement said.

His death comes two days after two other British soldiers -- one from the Parachute Regiment and another from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers -- were killed in Helmand.

Of the 374 British troops killed since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001 at least 330 were killed through hostile action. Some 26 British troops have died this year.

Britain has about 9,500 troops in Afghanistan. Prime Minister David Cameron has said they will be withdrawn by 2015 once responsibility for security is handed over to Afghan forces.

© 2011 AFP

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