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Last Updated: Friday, 27 July 2007, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Killed British soldier is named
Guardsman David Atherton
Guardsman Atherton served with 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards
A British soldier killed in southern Afghanistan on Thursday has been named as Guardsman David Atherton, 25, of 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said he had been killed after a clash with Taleban fighters in Helmand province.

The soldier, from Manchester was shot after his unit secured a bridge.

The death brings to 66 the number of UK military personnel who have died since military operations began in Afghanistan in November 2001.

'Dedicated soldier'

Guardsman Atherton leaves behind a girlfriend and a young daughter.

In a statement, his family paid tribute to "a professional and dedicated soldier".

He was considerate, thoughtful and the light of our life and the world will be a duller place without him
Family statement

"He loved the Army and it is hard to a imagine him doing anything else," the statement said.

"A kind, caring, loving father, son, brother and boyfriend, he was considerate, thoughtful and the light of our life and the world will be a duller place without him."

His commanding officer, Lt Col Carew Hatherley, said Guardsman Atherton had given "selfless service" to his nation and had died doing the job he loved.

Defence Secretary Des Browne said Guardsman Atherton's "skill and bravery is an example to us all".

An MoD statement released before Guardsman Atherton was named said: "After consolidating its position after securing a bridge crossing of the Nahr-e-Seraj canal, the company he was with was pushing west to clear further Taleban positions.

"At around 0600 local time, the company came under fire from Taleban fighters, and the soldier was shot.

"An emergency response helicopter was requested but he was pronounced dead at the scene. He was flown to the Isaf medical facility at Camp Bastion."

Guardsman Atherton's death came a day after L/Cpl Alex Hawkins, of the 1st Battalion of The Royal Anglian Regiment, was killed in Helmand.

The UK has 7,100 troops in Afghanistan, mainly concentrated in the southern province of Helmand.

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