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Last Updated: Monday, 7 August 2006, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
UK soldier killed in Afghanistan
Private Andrew Barrie Cutts
Pte Cutts was part of an operation against insurgents
A British soldier killed in a shooting during a multi-national operation in southern Afghanistan has been named as Private Andrew Barrie Cutts.

Pte Cutts, of the 13 Air Assault Support Regiment, was taking part in the largest action so far by UK forces against insurgents when he was killed.

He died in Musa Qala, in Helmand province, the Ministry of Defence said.

Operation Snakebite, involving about 500 UK troops and Afghan forces, aimed to disrupt Taleban operations.

Pte Cutts' death on Sunday brought the number of UK soldiers killed in Afghanistan in the past two months to 10.

It was a demanding operation but morale is, has been, and remains high
Lt Col David Reynolds
Helmand task force

He and fellow soldiers came under "significant fire" from Taleban forces, a statement from British forces in the Afghan city of Kandahar said.

"The battle group responded with overwhelming firepower and deliberate action to dislocate and disrupt the enemy who have attempted to rule local villages with fear and intimidation."

Lt Col David Reynolds, a spokesman for the Helmand task force, said the aim of dominating Musa Qala and disrupting enemy forces was "overwhelmingly achieved".

"Let's be clear, it was a demanding operation but morale is, has been, and remains high.

Rorke's Drift

"The guys on the ground are highly motivated, well-trained and well-equipped."

He dismissed suggestions that British forces are being out-gunned or facing a "Rorke's Drift scenario" as they had supporting attack helicopters and RAF Harriers.

This scenario refers to events in 1879, at Rorke's Drift on the Natal border with Zululand in South Africa, when a British garrison of 140 men - many of them sick and wounded - fought for 12 hours to repel repeated attacks by up to 3,000 Zulu warriors.

UK and Canadian-led Nato troops assumed control of operations in southern Afghanistan from US-led forces in July.

'Tragic incident'

Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne said: "I was saddened to hear of the death today of a British soldier who was supporting the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

"This is a huge loss for his friends and family - my thoughts are with them.

This isn't going to be over by Christmas. We are going to be there for a number of years in Afghanistan
Colonel Tim Collins

"UK forces are making a vital contribution to bringing security to the people of Afghanistan.

"Today's tragic incident underlines the challenges they face in carrying out this important task."

The Royal Logistics Corps, based in Colchester, Essex, has been deployed in Afghanistan since last month.

The head of the Army has defended Britain's military strategy in Afghanistan amid claims troops were "on the brink of exhaustion".

'Stuck in'

General Sir Mike Jackson said the Army played a vital role and forces were "getting stuck in" to the Taleban.

Colonel Tim Collins, a former commander in Iraq in 2003, agreed with Gen Jackson, but added: "We are getting stuck in with too few troops."

He told GMTV: "The Army is at risk at the moment. There will be more casualties, we have got to face that."

He called for funding and resources to be improved, and praised troops for "doing a great job" in heavy kit, with temperatures up to 50C, and in "constant contact with the enemy".

"A radical rethink of how we fund our forces in Afghanistan needs to be looked at.

"This isn't going to be over by Christmas. We are going to be there for a number of years in Afghanistan," Col Collins said.

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