British soldier killed in Taliban ambush

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The Independent Online

Another British soldier has been killed in Afghanistan after his patrol came under fire from Taliban fighters.

The ambush took place at Sangin town in Helmand province as Tony Blair warned MPs of a hard fight ahead for British forces and pledged that extra help will be sent to military commanders on the ground.

The soldier, a member of the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, was with a group of British soldiers which came under attack yesterday from Islamists using rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. The ensuing firefight lasted more than an hour and British forces had to call in air support from Apache helicopter gunships.

It was the sixth death in three weeks, five of them in the past nine days - a rate of attrition higher than that suffered by British forces at the start of the Iraqi insurgency.

Most of the British casualties have been suffered in the Sangin Valley, a strategic corridor which has become the battleground between Western forces and the Taliban and their Islamist allies. But yesterday's attack was reported to have been mounted at Sangin town, which is supposedly under the control of the government of Hamid Karzai and his Western allies.

The British patrol included Land Rovers which, troops have claimed, do not provide adequate protection. Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, has stated that a review will be undertaken on the Land Rover's safety aspects.

It was unclear last night whether the soldier who died was on foot at the time of the attack.

The British soldier's death came in a day of violence across Afghanistan, and in Helmand in particular.

US-led forces killed 35 people they described as insurgents in the bombing of a "known Taliban compound" in the village of Ghach Zar in the Kajaki district. "Several of the extremists killed were Taliban leaders who planned and conducted multiple attacks," said a spokesman for the US-led forces. This followed an operation earlier in the week by Western troops which killed 20 Afghans in the Sangin area.

Elsewhere, a series of bombings hit the capital, Kabul, for the second day in a row, killing one person and injuring more than 50. In the first attack, a remote-controlled bomb blew up near an Afghan army bus injuring 39 passengers. Minutes later a second bomb exploded as a bus transporting commerce ministry employees drove by, killing one bystander and injuring eight others.

In London, the Prime Minister told MPs: "It's absolutely clear the Taliban will fight very hard, particularly in the south of the country, in order to regain their foothold, in order to turn Afghanistan back into a failed state with the headquarters of al-Qa'ida there."

On Saturday, Lance Corporal Jabron Hashmi, 24, from Birmingham, died with Corporal Peter Thorpe, 27, from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, following an attack in Sangin.Both men were from 3 Para Battle Group.

On Tuesday last week two unnamed servicemen, believed to be special forces, were killed in the Sangin Valley when a patrol was attacked by Taliban militia.

Captain Jim Philippson, 29, of 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, died in a firefight with rebels last month.

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