Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Dead Afghanistan marines named

Marines Neil Dunstan (left) and Robert McKibben
Neil Dunstan and Robert McKibben died on joint patrol (Pic: MoD/PA)

Two Royal Marines killed in a blast in southern Afghanistan have been named by the Ministry of Defence.

Neil Dunstan, of Bournemouth, and Robert McKibben, both aged 32 and from the Irish Republic, died on patrol in Helmand province on Wednesday.

The pair, from UK Landing Force Command Support Group, served with the Plymouth-based 3 Commando Brigade.

The fatalities took the total of UK military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan to 300 - 124 of them in Afghanistan.

'Natural leader'

The explosion happened while they were on joint patrol with Afghan soldiers in the Garmsir district.

A third marine was seriously injured in the blast and a member of the Afghan security services was also killed.

Marine Dunstan was due to marry his fiancee Kate Miller in summer 2010.

She said: "Neil was so proud to be a marine and lived each day to the full. He was my soulmate and the love of my life. Neil was very much loved by all the family."

His commanding officer, Lt Col Andrew McInerney, said Marine Dunstan was a "quiet but natural leader".

"Tough and committed, he was always prepared to go the extra mile for his comrades," he said.

'Example and inspiration'

Marine McKibben, who was from Westport, County Mayo, had been expected home by his family before Christmas.

A family statement said: "As a family, we are all extremely proud of our Robbie. He had very definite plans of how he wanted to live his life.

"He was always thoughtful, considerate and had an amazing sense of humour that touched so many lives."

Lt Col McInerney described Marine McKibben as a "larger-than-life character, with an easy smile and quick wit".

He said: "He was an immensely capable man, yet his humility made him an example and inspiration to all he served with."

Defence Secretary John Hutton said he was "extremely saddened" by the deaths.

"I understand from their commanders that both were capable, committed and brave Royal Marines who served with dedication and distinction," he said.

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