Page last updated at 19:31 GMT, Friday, 17 July 2009 20:31 UK

MoD names soldier killed in blast

Rifleman Aminiasi Toge
Sixteen British soldiers have been killed this month in Afghanistan

A British soldier killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan has been named as Rifleman Aminiasi Toge from 2nd Battalion The Rifles.

The Fijian, known as Togey, leaves a twin brother, three sisters and his parents, the Ministry of Defence said.

He died on a foot patrol near Gereshk in Helmand province on Thursday - three days before his 27th birthday.

His death took the number of UK service personnel killed on operations in Afghanistan since October 2001 to 185.

Rifleman Toge was from the same battalion as five soldiers killed during a foot patrol near Sangin in Helmand a week ago.

'Key player'

His commanding officer, Lt Col Rob Thomson MBE, said he was one of the toughest riflemen under his command who was adored by all who knew him.

There was no truer moral compass in the Battle Group but there was mischief too, all very appropriate and full of fun
Lt Col Rob Thomson

"Rifleman Toge was my fastest Fijian and was known as 'Lightning'," he said."He was smaller than most of my South Pacific heroes but no less robust, determined and wily with an oval ball under his arm.

"We have lost a courageous man of great stature - there was no truer moral compass in the Battle Group but there was mischief too, all very appropriate and full of fun.

"Rifleman Toge will be sorely missed and our first thoughts are with his family at this unimaginably difficult time."

Other Fijian riflemen have gathered across the Upper Sangin Valley to pay their respects and bid him farewell, he added.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said he was "a strong, brave and popular soldier with a promising career ahead of him".

Helicopter row

And Maj Sam Plant, the officer commanding C squadron group of the Light Dragoons, described him as a "key player within his platoon".

Last week, eight soldiers were killed in a 24-hour period and the head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannat, has called for more and better equipment to protect against roadside bombs in the country.

He told the BBC that soldiers "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 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 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 comes as Nato forces step up operations against the Taliban ahead of Afghan elections next month.

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