Page last updated at 09:44 GMT, Friday, 17 July 2009 10:44 UK

Soldier dies in Afghan explosion

Uk soldiers fighting in Operation Panther's Claw
Sixteen British soldiers have been killed this month in Afghanistan

A British soldier from 2nd Battalion The Rifles has been killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The serviceman died while on a foot patrol near Gereshk in central Helmand. His next of kin have been informed.

The death takes the number of UK service personnel killed on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 to 185.

Last week, eight soldiers were killed in a 24-hour period, and the head of the Army has called for more equipment.

Task Force Helmand spokesman Lt Col Nick Richardson said the soldier killed on Thursday had "laid down his life for his country and for the good people of Afghanistan".

"We grieve for his loss and join with his family and friends to mourn his passing. He will always be remembered."

Helicopters

The head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, has called for better equipment to protect troops from roadside bombs in the country.

He told the BBC that troops "needed more" and added that he would be compiling a "shopping list" of what was required.

The government has also been accused of refusing requests for more troops, and this week MPs on the Commons defence select committee said that a lack of helicopters was undermining the UK forces' operations.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has repeatedly insisted the Army has enough equipment and denied claims of a helicopter shortage.

The general's recent comments come during a month in which 16 British soldiers have died in Helmand - with at least 12 killed by roadside bombs.

The big increase in British casualties has come as coalition troops conduct a military offensive - codenamed Panther's Claw - designed to increase security ahead of Afghan elections next month.

However, the serviceman who died on Thursday was not taking part in that operation.



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