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Last Updated: Friday July 03 2009 06:20 GMT

Tributes paid to dead soldiers

US troops

Families and comrades of two British soldiers killed in Afghanistan have been paying tribute to them.

Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe and Trooper Josh Hammond died when their car hit a roadside bomb in the Helmand province on Wednesday.

Six other soldiers were injured in the blast. In total, 171 British soldiers have died in the country since 2001.

The news came on the same day the US army announced a major attack against the Taliban.

Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thornloe commanded the First Battalion, the Welsh Guards. He is the most senior Army officer to die in action since the Falklands war in 1982.

Outstanding

The head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, said he was "an outstanding commanding officer."

Trooper Joshua Hammond, 18, from Plymouth, of 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, died just a week before his 19th birthday. He was engaged to be married.

He was described by senior officers as "a superb soldier".

The deaths come at a time when both UK and US forces are renewing their push against the Taliban.