The Ministry of Defence has branded a new study as “wrong and misleading” that claims very young army recruits are more likely to die because they perform the most dangerous roles.
Human rights groups Child Soldiers International and Forces Watch, who wrote the report, said soldiers serving in Afghanistan who joined the Army at 16 are twice as likely to die than those who joined at 18 or above.
It attacked the army for recruiting minors with limited academic qualifications who are then put in some of the highest risk roles in the front line infantry.
The MoD said it disputed the figures in the report, which looked at the deaths of 209 British soldiers in Afghanistan between October 2001 and March 31, 2013.
It found the risk of fatality in Afghanistan to soldiers who joined aged 16 between 1999-00 and 2008-09 was 1.92 per 1,000, compared with 1.32 per 1,000 for those who enlisted at 17 and 1.33 per 1,000 for those who enlisted aged 18 or above.
An MoD spokeswoman said: “We do not recognise the figures suggested in this report which have not been correctly sourced and are not based on official statistics.
”We can be clear that the safety of our personnel is our top priority and it is wrong and misleading to claim that the Army channels minors into the most dangerous roles.