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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2006, 22:26 GMT 23:26 UK
UK troops killed in ambush named
Captain Alex Eida
Captain Alex Eida served with the 7 Parachute Regiment
Three British soldiers killed after a vehicle patrol was ambushed by militants in southern Afghanistan have been named by the Ministry of Defence.

Capt Alex Eida, 2nd Lt Ralph Johnson and L/Cpl Ross Nicholls were killed on Tuesday in Helmand province.

2nd Lt Johnson and L/Cpl Nicholls were from the Household Cavalry Regiment. Capt Eida served in the 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery.

A fourth soldier injured in the incident has not yet been named.

UK and Canadian-led Nato troops assumed control of military operations in the area from US-led forces on Monday.

The attack brings to nine the number of British troops who have been killed in action in Afghanistan this year.

Heavy fighting

Nearly 4,000 UK troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan, the majority in Helmand as part of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

UK troops are conducting operations from Camp Bastion, near the provincial capital Lashkar Gah.

Lance Corporal Ross Nicholls

The incident took place amid reports of heavy fighting in the Musa Qala district of Helmand early on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Defence said an armoured vehicle patrol had come under attack at 0730 local time.

"This morning, during one incident, a pair of UK vehicles were attacked by insurgents who were armed with rocket propelled grenades and a heavy machine gun," said Army spokesman Lt Col Kevin Stratford-Wright.

He said the injured soldier was being treated at a military hospital.

'Devastated'

Capt Eida, 29, was single and lived in Hooley, Surrey.

His father Derek said: "My wife Jenny and I and our daughters, Tamsyn and Bryony, were devastated by the news of Alex's death in Afghanistan and are finding it extremely difficult to come to terms with.

"Our only consolation is that Alex enjoyed every minute of his life in the Army, in particular serving with 7 Para Royal Horse Artillery, to which his passion for fitness, adventure and professionalism were ideally suited.

"We all loved him very much and will never forget him."

Capt Eida's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel David Hammond, said: "He was a real character and personality who grew up as an officer amongst us and gave so much to the Regiment.

"We have lost a gifted young officer and friend who was a leading light of the unit and will be sadly missed."

'Real composure'

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Smyth-Osbourne, commanding officer of the Household Cavalry Regiment also paid tribute to his two soldiers.

2nd Lieutenant Ralph Johnson
2nd Lieutenant Ralph Johnson was killed in action in Helmand province

Of 2nd Lt Johnson, 24, who was single and from Windsor, he said: "In Afghanistan he displayed real composure and huge professional competence in a novel, harsh and unforgiving environment.

"It was typical that, during the early hours of 1 August, he was leading from the front when killed in an ambush in Northern Helmand."

And L/Cpl Ross Nicholls was, he said, someone who had taken to life with the Household Cavalry with "gusto and enthusiasm".

"He volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan despite the fact he had decided to leave the Army and was serving as Lt Johnson's operator when he was killed," said Lt Col Smyth-Osbourne.

L/Cpl Nicholls, 27, who lived in central London, was married with a two year old son and a newborn baby girl.

Defence Minister Des Browne said in a statement: "Those responsible for the attacks on our soldiers in Northern Helmand do not want to see security and prosperity brought to the local people.

"We cannot allow them to succeed, and we remain committed to seeing through our part in this vital international effort."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Army spokesman on ambush in Afghanistan



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