Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Sunday, 15 March 2009

Dead British soldier named by MoD

Christopher Harkett
L/Cpl Harkett died after the explosion in Musa Qala

A British soldier killed while on foot patrol in southern Afghanistan has been named by the Ministry of Defence.

Lance Corporal Christopher Harkett, 22, from The 2nd Battalion, Royal Welsh Regiment, died on Saturday.

The soldier, from Pontardawe, near Swansea, was injured in an explosion in Musa Qala in northern Helmand, and died later at the scene.

His death means 150 British service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since operations began.

Major Sid Welham, commanding officer of C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, said: "Lance Corporal Chris 'H' Harkett personified the spirit and character of The Royal Welsh.

We find some peace in that he died bravely protecting people of a land that was far from his home
Harkett family statement

"H was ever smiling and always motivated whatever the situation. At the heart of his platoon, he was essential to their high morale."

L/Cpl Harkett was trained at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate and subsequently at Catterick before joining the battalion in March 2004 in Paderborn, Germany.

He trained as a medic, a gunner and a signaller and the Army said he had a bright future, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

A statement from his family said: "Although he has been taken from us at a young age, he lived life to the full.

Lieutenant Colonel James Swift: 'He was a formidable man'

"Our hearts are empty at this moment but we find some peace in that he died bravely protecting people of a land that was far from his home.

"He leaves behind a beautiful and loving wife and a younger brother who adored him."

His wife Danielle said: "I cannot begin to describe the pain and hurt I feel knowing I will not be with you again.

"I only have the memories of our short life together, but I'm grateful that I had the privilege and honour to be your wife."

On Sunday Defence Secretary John Hutton said the Afghanistan war was a "fundamentally important" one which would "define much of the politics of the 21st century".

He said UK troops, whom he paid tribute to, were in Afghanistan "first and foremost to tackle fundamental extremism which is a risk to the security of our citizens and our country".

John Hutton

Troops were seeking to build up credible and determined Afghan security forces, he added.

He said Nato's European members had to do more and not expect the US to do all the "heavy lifting".

His comments, which come ahead of a meeting with his US counterpart this week, follow the death of four US soldiers from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force in an explosion in the province of Nangarhar, in eastern Afghanistan.

The alliance does not disclose the nationalities of its casualties but most troops in that part of the country are from the US military.

More than 60 foreign soldiers have now been killed in Afghanistan this year.

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