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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 July 2007, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Iraq accident death soldier named
Rifleman Edward Vakabua
Rifleman Edward Vakabua was "quiet, shy and pleasant"
A British soldier who died in an accident in Iraq on Friday has been named as Rifleman Edward Vakabua, 23, of 4th Battalion The Rifles.

Rifleman Vakabua, a Fijian national from Suva serving in Mortar Platoon attached to 7 Platoon, B Company, died at the Basra Palace base.

The Ministry of Defence has not given any details of the accident, but said an investigation had begun.

The MoD said "Vaka" was a "quiet, shy and pleasant character".

Based in Bulford, Wiltshire, he was described as a team player who completed tasks without complaint or problems.

Captain Will Peltor, Rifleman Vakabua's Platoon Commander, said: "Vaka's death yesterday has hurt us all deeply: a friend, a cherished brother Rifleman, a proud son of Fiji - and one of whom Fiji can be deeply proud - has been lost serving our country on active service."

'Courage and selflessness'

The platoon soldiers paid tribute to him in a ceremony, during which his fellow Fijians sang.

Capt Peltor added: "It raised the hairs on the backs of our necks and was a fitting and wonderful tribute to a fallen friend whose faith, courage, selflessness and simple decency defined him and inspired all who knew him."

Rifleman Vakabua's mother and sisters live in Fiji and his brother is also serving in Iraq, with the 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery.

Defence Secretary Des Browne said: "I am deeply saddened by the tragic death of Rifleman Vakabua. His family are very much in my thoughts and prayers as they come to terms with their loss."

Fijian soldiers

A soldier from 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, who was killed in an improvised bomb attack on Saturday, is expected to be named later.

The latest deaths mean the total number of UK troops killed in operations in Iraq has risen to 158.

Of those who died, 122 are classed as having been killed in combat.

There are approximately 2,000 soldiers serving in the British Army from Fiji, a country where almost half of the population is reported to live below the poverty line.

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