Soldier killed in blast 'had Olympic ambitions'

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The Independent Online

A British soldier killed in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday was an aspiring Olympic athlete, his comrades said yesterday.

Trooper Christopher Whiteside, 20, of the Light Dragoons, died in an explosion near Gereshk in Helmand province. He had hoped to compete as a fencer in the 2012 Olympics.

He became the seventh British soldier to die in as many days, bringing the total killed in Afghanistan to 176. His commanding officer, Lt-Colonel Gus Fair, said: "Trooper Whiteside had been tested in some of the most intense fighting ever experienced in Afghanistan and had never been found wanting."

Meanwhile, an explosion outside a school south of the Afghan capital yesterday killed at least 25 people, including 15 students. The blast was caused by explosives hidden in the back of a lorry which had crashed overnight, leading to speculation that the explosives could have been meant for an attack elsewhere.

Violence has escalated since US Marines launched a major offensive a week ago.