Page last updated at 12:34 GMT, Friday, 1 January 2010

UK soldier dies after being caught in Afghanistan blast

UK forces in Afghanistan
The soldier was part of a task force dealing with insurgent bombs

A British bomb disposal expert died on New Year's Eve after being caught in a explosion in Afghanistan, said the MoD.

The soldier was from 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), Royal Engineers, based at Carver Barracks, in Wimbish, north Essex.

The blast happened near Patrol Base Blenheim, close to Sangin in Helmand Province. Next of kin have been told.

The UK death toll from operations in Afghanistan since 2001 is now 245 - with 108 killed in 2009 alone.

Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lt Col David Wakefield, said there was "deep sadness" at the news.

"He was part of the Counter-IED Task Force, leading the fight against the Improvised Explosive Device in Helmand.

"His sacrifice and his courage will not be forgotten."

The 33 Engineer Regiment is predominantly based at Carver Barracks.

Graphic: IED

The soldier who died was from the same regiment as Corporal Loren Marlton-Thomas, 28, who was killed after a roadside bomb exploded while he was clearing a route in Helmand province on 15 November.

Cpl Marlton-Thomas "epitomised the men of courage and nerve that he led", the Ministry of Defence said when he died.

Last month Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced £150m would be spent on tackling IEDs in Afghanistan, which have killed more than 120 of the 237 British service personnel to have died there.

The government also said it was to buy 22 new Chinook helicopters and other equipment for Afghanistan but was making cuts to fund them, citing "acute cost pressures".

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said RAF Cottesmore in Rutland would be closed and defence jobs cut, to allow £900m more to be spent on the mission.

Other planned cuts will be brought forward, and some projects delayed.

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