British soldier shot dead in Afghanistan

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A British soldier was shot dead in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Ministry of Defence in London said.

The soldier, from 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, died from a gunshot wound sustained during a small arms fire engagement with insurgents in the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand Province, the MoD said.

"He was conducting a joint foot patrol with the Afghan National Army when he was killed," said Task Force Helmand spokesman Lieutenant Colonel James Carr-Smith.

"He died doing his duty, alongside his mates, whilst seeking to reassure the local population and counter insurgent intimidation."

The death brings to 287 the number of British troops killed since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001. Of these, at least 252 were killed as a result of hostile action.

He is the sixth British soldier killed in Afghanistan this month. Next of kin have been informed.

Britain has around 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, largely battling Taliban militants in Helmand.

Britain's new coalition government has put Afghanistan top of its foreign policy agenda.

New Foreign Secretary William Hague, Defence Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell visited Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul for talks Saturday.

They said there would be no deadline for withdrawal, but said they were deciding how best to support the international strategy for ending the insurgency.

© 2010 AFP

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