British soldier dies in Afghanistan after insurgent attack on barracks

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The Independent Online

A British soldier was killed and another badly wounded yesterday when their platoon's house was attacked by insurgents in southern Afghanistan where the Army is facing a determined assault by the Taliban.

The soldiers were not immediately identified, but it was the second death of a British soldier in southern Afghanistan in four days, and the seventh since the start of August.

The attack took place in Musa Qala, in the north of Helmand province, where 4,000 British soldiers have been deployed as part of a Nato-led security force. The Taliban have allied themselves with the local drugs mafia into a potent armed opposition which has spread its influence throughout south and eastern Afghanistan, terrorising farmers who have been reluctant to swap their poppy growing for alternative crops.

Helmand is at the heart of the heroin industry, and this year's opium harvest is expected to show a strong increase in a UN report to be published today.

Also yesterday, suspected Taliban shot dead a district chief in an ambush in the central province of Ghazni, and wounded four of his bodyguards. British officials say the Taliban fighters include foreign guerrillas whose attacks are being co-ordinated from Quetta, Pakistan. The Taliban's leader, Mullah Omar, has still not been captured five years since the fall of the Taliban after the 2001 US-led invasion.

The renewed violence, as well as corruption and weak government, has dealt a blow to efforts to promote democracy and development under President Hamid Karzai. An official with the UK's Department for International Development said: "Development is going to take years and years and years."

Twenty-two British troops have died in Afghanistan since the start of operations in November 2001.