Soldier dies in Afghan attack

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A British Royal Marine and two children were killed yesterday in a suicide attack on a convoy in the centre of the capital of Helmand province.

The attack, in which a second Marine and seven civilians were injured, came after a lull in the fighting and 48 hours after the outgoing British commander in the country had declared that the Taliban had been "tactically defeated".

The bombing at Lashkar Gar was among a series across the country, and followed a threat by the Taliban to escalate the conflict. Speaking in London, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Nato secretary general, warned that Western forces were in Afghanistan "for the long haul" and stressed that extra troops were needed to combat the resurgent Islamist fighters.

In Kabul the Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked Nato to exercise more care after more than 20 civilians were killed during a battle at Tajikan in Helmand. "I have mentioned in the past that every effort should be made to ensure the safety of the civilians and that inflicting harm to them is not acceptable to us," said President Karzai.

"Once again I urge Nato forces to take maximum caution during their military operations to avoid harming civilians."