Latest fatality takes Afghanistan death toll to 100

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The death of another soldier in Afghanistan has taken the number of British personnel killed in the country this year to 100, confirming 2009 one of the bloodiest years for the military in a generation.

The soldier, from 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, was shot in the Nad-e Ali area, in central Helmand Province, yesterday afternoon. His family has been informed.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said his thoughts were with all the families of those who had been killed during the campaign .

"My thoughts, and the entire nation's, are with the families and friends of every one of those brave men who have died this year; indeed, with every one of our service personnel who have lost their lives serving our country in Afghanistan since 2001," Mr Brown said. "We will never forget those who have died fighting for our country and we must also honour their memory. That means staying the course, doing what is right for Britain, and seeing this mission through."

Casualties in Afghanistan have increased steadily since operations began in October 2001. Yesterday's milestone makes 2009 the bloodiest year for an enduring campaign since 1972. The number of casualties is also approaching the 255 personnel killed during the Falklands War. A total of 237 soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.

The Independent has learnt that military figures have privately warned politicians that casualties could rise even faster once the US-led increase in troops has begun. The Prime Minister has already said that Britain will be sending an additional 500 troops as part of the plan. Mr Brown said that Britain's presence in Afghanistan was ensuring that "al-Qa'ida cannot use the country as a base from which to plot terrorist attacks against Britain".

Sir Jock Stirrup, head of the military, admitted that it had been a "particularly challenging year" for the Armed Forces, but said they had made significant achievements.

"Our Armed Forces have brought security to more of the population of Helmand, and have helped the Afghan National Army to develop its own capabilities to protect the people," he said. "There is still much to do, and there will be difficult days ahead, but our Armed Forces are making a real difference."

Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, said: "We must keep in our minds why our people are in Afghanistan and the progress and achievements they have and continue to make," he said.