Paratrooper killed in Helmand

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The Independent Online

A British paratrooper serving with special forces has been killed in a notoriously violent area of southern Afghanistan.

The soldier, from 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment, died after being hit by a suspected improvised explosive device while on a foot patrol with Afghan troops near Sangin in Helmand Province yesterday afternoon. His family has been informed.

He was the fifth member of UK forces to be killed in the volatile Sangin area this month. Two deaths are being investigated as separate suspected friendly fire incidents.

Lance Corporal Michael David Pritchard, 22, of the 4th Regiment Royal Military Police, was killed on Sunday and a soldier from 3rd Battalion The Rifles died yesterday from wounds sustained in a firefight on Monday.

The Ministry of Defence said the Royal Military Police was conducting inquiries into both deaths and that it would not release any more information until the conclusion of inquests.

It is understood that the paratrooper who died yesterday belonged to the Special Forces Support Group, which was formed in April 2006 to assist the SAS and SBS on operations.

Sangin is a notoriously volatile area because it contains a patchwork of rival tribes and is a major centre of the country's opium industry. The battle group stationed in Sangin over the summer, based around 2nd Battalion The Rifles, lost 23 men during its six-month tour.

A total of 243 British troops have died since the start of operations in Afghanistan in 2001, including 106 this year alone.

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