Page last updated at 08:25 GMT, Sunday, 5 July 2009 09:25 UK

Two UK soldiers die in Helmand

British troops in Afghanistan
British troops are currently involved in a major offensive against the Taliban

Two British soldiers have been killed in separate attacks in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said.

A soldier from 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade, the MoD said.

A soldier from The Light Dragoons was killed in an explosion. Both families have been informed about the attacks, which happened on Saturday.

The deaths in Helmand province bring the total number of UK personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001 to 173.

The most senior Army officer to die in action since 1982 was killed in Helmand on Wednesday.

Col Rupert Thorneloe, commanding officer of the Welsh Guards, died alongside Trooper Joshua Hammond when their Viking armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.

'First-rate soldiers'

The latest attacks took place during an operation near Gereshk, in central Helmand, on Saturday night, the MoD said.

Lt Col Nick Richardson, a spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "The loss of these soldiers, and colleagues, has come as a huge blow to us all.

The insurgents are desperate and they are employing desperate tactics
Brig Gen Eric Tremblay
International Security Assistance Force

"But it is the family, friends and loved ones, as well as the men and women who served alongside them, who feel the greatest pain and we offer them our deepest and heartfelt condolences, thoughts and prayers and take consolation from the fact that their deaths are not in vain."

More than 700 British troops are currently involved in a major offensive - codenamed Operation Panther's Claw - against insurgent strongholds in southern Afghanistan.

At the same time, some 4,000 US troops are also engaged in a major surge in the same region.

Brig Gen Eric Tremblay, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan, said of the latest deaths: "Isaf soldiers grieve once again for the loss of these two first-rate soldiers.

"On behalf of all their brothers and sisters in arms, I wish to offer my deep sympathies to the families and friends of our fallen comrades."

The soldier from The Light Dragoons died after an improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated.

Brig Gen Tremblay added: "The insurgents are desperate and they are employing desperate tactics.

"We will continue to work hard to defeat the vicious and indiscriminate IED threat employed by the enemies of Afghanistan as we assist Afghans in their plight for a better future."

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Telegraph Soldier killed in Afghan crash - 1 hr ago
The Independent Briton killed in Afghan helicopter crash - 1 hr ago
Sky News Afghanistan: UK Casualties Named - 19 hrs ago
Channel 4 News Another UK soldier dies in Afghanistan - 27 hrs ago

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