200th soldier killed in Afghanistan named

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The Independent Online

The family of the 200th soldier killed in Afghanistan said today their thoughts were with other injured service personnel and bereaved families as the death toll continued to rise ahead of elections in the war-torn country.

Private Richard Hunt, 21, from The 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, died of his wounds at a military hospital in Selly Oak on Saturday.

He was injured while on patrol near Musa Qaleh in Helmand Province three days earlier.

Tributes were also paid to Sergeant Simon Valentine of 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers who was killed on Saturday 15 August.

Three further soldiers were killed over the weekend bringing the total to 204.

Earlier, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth insisted there was no room for complacency in Afghanistan.

He was speaking following criticism of remarks he made yesterday on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that troops would see "a degree of progress" within the next year.

Today he told GMTV: "Yes we have seen an increase in the rate of loss but I will say that we should still be there. This mission is vital to our national interests and national security and we have to persevere."

He said troops had seen a "phenomenal improvement" in the equipment they were receiving.

"When we are suffering the kind of losses that we are we cannot afford to be complacent.

"I will do everything I can to support our troops with the best kit but what I can't do is promise to make the operation in Afghanistan safe. This kind of operation is intrinsically dangerous, the enemy is smart and they are studying our methods."

Further light is set to be shed on the scale of casualties suffered by UK armed forces when official injury figures are published later today.

The details of the injuries suffered by troops in the last two weeks of July are expected to reflect the ferocity of the fighting against insurgents.

The latest three deaths happened yesterday morning while soldiers from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers were on patrol near Sangin in Helmand Province.

Over the weekend the MoD also named three British troops killed providing security for a meeting ahead of Afghanistan's crunch presidential elections.

Lance Bombardier Matthew Hatton, 23, of 40th Regiment Royal Artillery, was wounded in the initial attack in Sangin on Thursday.

Captain Mark Hale, 42, and Rifleman Daniel Wild, 19, both from 2nd Battalion The Rifles, were carrying him to a helicopter landing zone when there was a second explosion, killing L/Bdr Hatton and Rfn Wild. Capt Hale died of his injuries later in hospital.

There has been another upsurge in violence in Afghanistan as Taliban elements intensify efforts to disrupt the elections, due to be held on Thursday.

The attacks mean that the UK's casualty rate has remained high despite the conclusion of last month's major offensive known as Operation Panther's Claw - which was widely regarded as a success.

Meanwhile General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said troops were facing a "difficult and dangerous operation" in Afghanistan but insisted: "We will succeed, we must succeed."

Speaking at the official opening of an army recovery centre in Scotland, he added: "It's a war about the people in Afghanistan. In particular we need to persuade the people in Afghanistan to support their government."

He said Britain had a "duty" to support the "brave men and women" currently serving their country.

"When they are injured we have an absolute duty to provide the very best for them," he said.