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Third UK soldier killed in Afghanistan

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 10 July 2009

The Ministry of Defence announces that a third British soldier has been killed in Afghanistan, bringing the current death toll to 179, equalling the loss of troops in Iraq.

Soldier in Afghanistan (credit:Reuters)

A British soldier from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment was killed in southern Afghanistan, following the announcement of two other deaths earlier today.

The first was killed in an explosion while on foot patrol yesterday afternoon. The second died from a gunshot wound sustained during a battle with insurgents last night. Their next of kin have been told.

The second serviceman was taking part in Operation Panther's Claw, a major assault against the Taliban in Helmand ahead of next month's Afghan elections.

The number of British troops killed since the start of operations in 2001 now stands at 179, equal to the number killed in Iraq.

The Westminster consensus over the conduct of the war is splintering, with a former chief of the defence staff, General Lord Guthrie, saying soldiers lives have been put at risk by an unsympathetic treasury. He told the Daily Mail that if there had been more helicopters "it is very likely that fewer soldiers would have been killed by roadside bombs."

The news comes as the bodies of five British soldiers killed earlier this week are being returned the UK today.

Lance Corporal David Dennis, 29, from Llanelli, south Wales, of the Light Dragoons, and Private Robert Laws, 18, from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, of 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, died in separate incidents in Helmand on Saturday.

Lance Corporal Dane Elson, 22, who was born in Zimbabwe but had moved to Bridgend, south Wales, of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was killed in an explosion on Sunday.

Captain Ben Babington-Browne, 27, from Maidstone, Kent, of 22 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, died in a helicopter crash in Zabul Province on Monday.

Trooper Christopher Whiteside, 20, from Blackpool, of The Light Dragoons, died in a blast caused by an improvised explosive device near Gereshk in Helmand on Tuesday.

'More helicopters'

Foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Rugman put General Lord Guthrie's comments to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who responded by saying:

"We have sent more helicopters, we now have almost twice as much helicopter capability as we had two years ago and we have made orders for new helicopters as a result of the increasing demands that came from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I think we have responded to the requirements of the military for extra equipment for particular things like night vision equipment, but also for the numbers of vehicles and the protection of these vehicles as well as the helicopters.

"We have got to accept that this is very difficult terrain. This is a season where we are dealing with the Afghan Taliban, the mounting attacks against our own soldiers. For those who have lost their lives, for their families, I send my condolences.

"At the same time we are part of an international effort…because people see the importance of winning the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan so that that battle with the terrorists does not come to the streets of our own country."


Winston Churchill, president of the United Kingdom National Defence Association and grandson of the late wartime prime minister, told Channel 4 News that not providing British troops in battle with the right equipment is "unforgivable".

"Had it not been for the fact that our troops had been sent into battle with inappropriate equipment, inappropriate vehicles which offer little or no protection from the IEDs; had it not been for the fact that the new generation of armoured vehicles has been postponed; had it not been for the fact that we don't have enough helicopters on scene, there would be many people who would be alive today who are now dead.

"What is unforgivable is when they are killed through the failure of British politicians, British cabinets and British governments who commit British troops to war and yet deny them the wherewithal.

"In the twelve years this government has been in office, certain departments have seen a three per cent increase in their share of GDP. Defence has seen an almost one third reduction from close to three per cent to close to two per cent.

"When our troops are committed to war and dying in battle that is unforgivable."

'Best equipped'

Armed forces minister Bill Rammell defended the government's spending, saying the British troops were "best equipped armed forces in the world".

"It is just not true that we have starved the military of resources. We have spent £10bn over the last three years on equipment, £1bn alone on new and better protected vehicles.

"The services chiefs tell me as a minister…that we have the best equipment that we have ever had and we are the best equipped armed forces in the world.

"We are not facing this on our own, we are part of a 42-nation coalition, and we are all suffering because of that threat that we face at the moment."

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