Wife pays tribute to Afghan death soldier

The wife of a British soldier killed in Afghanistan said today that his death would leave a "gaping hole" in his family's life.

Sergeant Andrew Jones, 35, of the Royal Engineers, died alongside Trooper Andrew Howarth, 20, of The Queen's Royal Lancers, when their Jackal armoured vehicle was targeted by an insurgent bomb in the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand Province on Saturday.

Sgt Jones, from Newport, South Wales, leaves his wife, Joanne, and children, Natasha, Caitlin and Liam.

His wife said in a statement: "Andrew was a happy, funny and caring man. He was a loving husband, father and son, and he will leave a gaping hole in our lives."

Sgt Jones, who previously completed a tour in Kosovo, was serving in Afghanistan as a reconnaissance engineer with the Queen's Royal Lancers.

His comrades described him as a dedicated father and patriotic Welshman with a passion for rugby.

Lieutenant Colonel Martin Todd, commanding officer of the Queen's Royal Lancers, said: "His courage and good-humoured leadership inspired all those in his troop, particularly when the going was hard.

"He died serving his corps and country while protecting ordinary Afghans.

"A proud Welshman, who exhibited all the fortitude of his countrymen, he was at heart a devoted family man."

Major Ben Cossens, officer commanding Fondouk Squadron of the Queen's Royal Lancers, said Sgt Jones was "a tremendous soldier and a tireless and committed engineer" with an ability to lift his fellow soldiers' spirits.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said: "I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Sergeant Andrew Jones. His colleagues praise him as a tough, resolute soldier, a skilled engineer and an inspirational leader of men.

"His sacrifice, protecting our national security, will not be forgotten. I extend my deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones."

A total of 337 British troops have died since the start of operations in Afghanistan in 2001.

Royal Marines handed over command of the deadly Sangin district in northern Helmand Province - where nearly a third of UK deaths in the campaign have occurred - to the US Marines yesterday.