Soldier dies from Afghan blast injuries

A British solider has died from injuries sustained in an explosion in Afghanistan earlier this month, the Ministry of Defence said.

The serviceman, from 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, part of Combined Force Nahr-e Saraj North, died yesterday at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Birmingham.

He was injured on June 10 in a blast in the Nahr-e Saraj North District of Helmand Province while on a joint patrol with the Afghan National Army. His family has been told.

The serviceman's death, announced yesterday as Britain marked Armed Forces Day with a series of events, takes the number of British troops who have died in the Afghan campaign to 308.

It is also the 19th fatality this month - approaching the conflict's record monthly toll of 22 which was reached last June.

Earlier the Queen hailed the "professionalism and courage" of Britain's servicemen and women as tens of thousands of people celebrated Armed Forces Day.

Troops were greeted by cheering crowds during a parade through Cardiff to mark the second annual event in honour of troops past, present and future, from the oldest veteran to the youngest cadet.

In blazing sunshine, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were joined by the head of the Armed Forces Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup and Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox in the Welsh capital.

The national event in Cardiff, attended by around 50,000 people, was one of more than 350 organised around the country.

The Queen, who sent a message of support, said the troops operated in the "most difficult and dangerous of circumstances".

"The men and women of our Armed Forces have always been admirable examples of professionalism and courage," she said.

"Then as now, they perform their duties in often the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances, both at home and overseas."

Hazel Hunt, the mother of the 200th member of British forces to be killed in Afghanistan, said the celebration provided a "comfort" to her.

Her son, Private Richard Hunt, 21, of 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh, was killed last year.

"I think the event is absolutely fantastic," said Mrs Hunt, 50, of Abergavenny, Gwent.

"It brings the armed forces to the public's notice even more. It is a comfort.

"On the one hand, it's slightly sad because this is obviously the sort of thing Richard would have probably got involved with.

"But it's nice to see them all and everybody seems to be having a lovely day.

"These are ordinary people who do an extraordinary job. I am very proud of Richard."

Other major celebrations were held in Edinburgh, where guests included the head of the Army, General Sir David Richards, and Manchester, which welcomed the head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope.

There were also a host of smaller functions in towns and villages nationwide, ranging from parades and military displays to a mass skydive in fancy dress and a "patriotic knitting" exhibition.

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