Page last updated at 08:08 GMT, Saturday, 13 June 2009 09:08 UK

UK soldier dies in Afghan blast

Pte Robert McLaren (Pic: MoD)
Pte McLaren had only been serving in Afghanistan for four weeks

A British soldier has been killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The soldier, who was serving with The 2nd Battalion the Rifles, was killed on Friday morning near Sangin, in the north of Helmand Province.

It follows the death of a soldier, from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, near Kandahar on Thursday.

The MoD has said Private Robert McLaren was killed by an explosion.

The latest death brings the total number of British troops killed on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 to 168.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson said all thoughts were with the unnamed soldier's family and friends, who had been informed.

Meanwhile, the MoD said Pte McLaren, 20, from Kintras, by Fionnphort on the Isle of Mull, was fresh out of infantry recruit training when he was caught in the blast while on operation on Thursday.

'Sorely missed'

He passed out of Seven Platoon on 3 April 2009 and was posted to The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland on operations in southern Afghanistan.

Pte McLaren's family said: "We are very proud of Robert; he died doing a job he loved and we will cherish fond memories of Robert for ever."

His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Cartwright said from the moment Pte McLaren arrived, "he threw his heart and body into everything he was asked to do".

Any death in this close knit Battalion delivers an emotional body blow, but the loss of this young man so soon after joining us has hit us particularly hard
Lt Col Stephen Cartwright

He said the Company had been been engaged in close combat with the insurgents for several hours and Robert had displayed enormous physical courage during this battle for one so young.

"Pte Robert McLaren has been cruelly taken from us after only four weeks of active service in The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

"He gave his life for his friends with his selfless commitment, moving forward in the face of a determined and ruthless enemy.

"Fit, keen to learn and easy company, Robert had so much going for him and was so proud to be on operations so soon in his career.

"Any death in this close knit Battalion delivers an emotional body blow, but the loss of this young man so soon after joining us has hit us particularly hard," he said.

"He will be sorely missed by his many friends in the Battalion and we will never forget him. We march forward on this most difficult task knowing that Robert would be urging to do just that," he added.



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