Two British soldiers killed in Afghanistan

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Two British soldiers were killed yesterday while taking part in a major offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

One serviceman, from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, died in an explosion in the Babaji area of Helmand province. His family has been informed.

Another serviceman also died but details were not available last night.

They were both involved in Operation Moshtarak, a massive joint British, American and Afghan assault on insurgent strongholds.

Their deaths, taking the number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 263, came as the bodies of five others returned to the UK.

Lance Corporal Darren Hicks, 29, from Mousehole, Cornwall, Lance Sergeant David Greenhalgh, 25, from Ilkeston, Derbyshire, Kingsman Sean Dawson, 19, born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, Rifleman Mark Marshall, 29, born in Exeter, Devon, and Sapper Guy Mellors, 20, from Coventry, were honoured in the Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett by their families, friends and local people.

The five hearses crept into the rain-soaked town and halted briefly beside the war memorial as mourners placed flowers on the cars. Earlier, the men's bodies arrived at nearby RAF Lyneham by C-17 transport plane. Their Union flag-draped coffins were met by their families and taken to a chapel of rest.

After passing through Wootton Bassett, the bodies were taken to Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital for post-mortem examinations. An investigation into Kingsman Dawson's death has been launched due to fears that he was the victim of friendly fire. He was shot during a gunfight with insurgents in the Musa Qala area of Helmand province.

Sapper Mellors' friend Sean Wildman, 20, from Coventry, said: "He was a true hero." Police officers from Exeter travelled to Wootton Bassett to pay their respects to Rifleman Marshall, who was in the Territorial Army and also a police community support officer.