Bomb disposal expert killed in Afghanistan

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A British Army bomb disposal expert has been killed in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said today.

The soldier, from 101 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), died in a firefight with insurgents in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province yesterday.

He was serving as part of the counter-Improvised Explosive Device task force. His family have been told.

Lieutenant Colonel James Carr-Smith, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "The soldier was part of an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) team that was extracting from an incident when he was killed by small arms fire.

"He died seeking to rid Helmand of IEDs such that local Afghans could move freely throughout the province. He will be greatly missed and his actions will not be forgotten. We will remember him."

The latest death took the number of British troops who have died in the Afghan campaign to 309.

Twenty UK soldiers and Royal Marines have already been killed this month, including 11 in the past 10 days alone.

Tributes were paid today to another British soldier who died in hospital at the weekend after being injured in Afghanistan.

Bombardier Stephen Gilbert, 36, from 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, was badly wounded in an explosion in Nahr-e Saraj on June 10.

He was brought back to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where he died on Saturday afternoon with his wife Jackie by his side.

Bdr Gilbert, known as "Gilly" to his comrades, joined the Army in 1999 and served in Kosovo and Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan in March.

He was injured taking part in a joint patrol with Afghan soldiers to disrupt an insurgent checkpoint that was affecting the freedom of movement of local farmers, the Ministry of Defence said.

The soldier, who was originally from Scotland and lived in Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, leaves behind his wife Jackie and sons Connor and Kristian.

His wife said in a statement: "We as a family are so proud of Steve and everything he believed in. He was a fantastic father and Connor and Kristian have not only lost their dad but their best friend.

"Steve was a devoted husband and we lived and laughed every day we shared. I do truly believe I was lucky enough to find my true soul mate.

"Steve will always be in my heart and will live on through his family and many close friends. Rest in peace my darling - I love you so much."

Lieutenant Colonel Chris Squier, commanding officer of 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, described Bdr Gilbert as a "rising star".

He said: "Men like him are truly rare. He fought for the final days of his life as he had lived, with true passion and spirit.

"He never woke from the blast that so cruelly took him from us and he sadly passed away with his wife Jackie by his side."

Corporal John Hough, from 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment, added: "He was an absolute one in a million, generous, kind and consoling whenever a friend was in need.

"He was a tough and resolute soldier but deep down I know he was a big softie with his one true love, his wife Jackie, and his boys."

Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: "I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Bombardier Stephen Gilbert.

"The tributes of his colleagues speak of a highly respected soldier who enhanced the lives of all those he came into contact with through his enthusiasm, humour and professionalism.

"His own high standards inspired those who served with him and he will be sorely missed. My thoughts remain with his family and those dear to him at this sad time."

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