British soldier shot dead during attack on Taliban

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The Independent Online

Another British soldier has been killed in Helmand province in Afghanistan during an offensive against the resurgent Taliban.

The soldier was shot yesterday in an attack in the Musa Qala area, an Islamist stronghold in the Sangin Valley, where three British soldiers were killed last week. The mission is said to have led to the killings and capture of several suspects, including a Sunni cleric with links to insurgents.

The death brings to 10 the number of UK soldiers who have been killed in Helmand in the past two months. British forces have engaged in 25 actions against the Taliban since May. Military sources said the soldier was part of a team driving armoured trucks. The convoy was supported by helicopters, armoured cars and the Parachute Regiment. The death was described as a "lucky shot" rather than an effective ambush.

As well as the recent spate of British deaths, four other Nato soldiers were killed in one day last week. A series of suicide bombings, widely prevalent in Iraq but unknown until recently in Afghanistan, have claimed more than 30 lives in the past 10 days. Capt Alex Eida, 29, 2nd Lt Ralph Johnson, 24, and L/Cpl Ross Nicholls, 27, who died last Tuesday, were the latest British victims in the conflict against the Islamists.

General Sir Mike Jackson, the outgoing head of the Army, defended the military strategy yesterday and said it was imperative that UK forces were "getting stuck into" the enemy.

But the latest casualty comes amid reports that soldiers are on the brink of exhaustion. There is also increasing frustration that Taliban fighters are seemingly repeatedly gaining sanctuary in Pakistan to regroup and launch further attacks.

The military analyst Major Charles Heyman said many British soldiers were in outposts far from the main British bases, where they faced a determined and well-armed enemy.

"There is a little bit of Rorke's Drift about this and if we are not very, very careful we could have a disaster on our hands," he said.