Soldier killed in Afghanistan blast

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Another British soldier has been killed in Afghanistan, taking the number of UK deaths in the country to seven in a week.

The serviceman, from the Light Dragoons, died in an explosion near Gereshk in Helmand Province last night.

He was taking part in Operation Panchai Palang, or Panther's Claw, a major assault against the Taliban in the central Helmand river valley ahead of next month's Afghan presidential election.

The soldier's next of kin have been informed.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "This soldier gave his life for the security of his own country and the freedom of the Afghan people -there is no greater sacrifice than this.

"Our deepest and heartfelt sympathies go to his family and loved ones."

The death takes the number of British servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001 to 176.

It has been a grim week for UK forces in the country, with a series of fatalities including the highest ranking Army officer to die on operations since the Falklands.

Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, 39, the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, and Trooper Joshua Hammond, 18, of 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, died in a blast near Lashkar Gah last Wednesday.

Hundreds of people turned out to pay their respects when their bodies were returned to the UK on Monday.

Another three British soldiers were killed in Operation Panchai Palang over the weekend.

Lance Corporal David Dennis, 29, of the Light Dragoons, and Private Robert Laws, 18, of 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, died on Saturday.

And Lance Corporal Dane Elson, 22, of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was killed by an explosion on Sunday.

A British soldier from 22 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, died alongside two Canadian troops in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan's southern Zabul Province on Monday.

He is expected to be named by the Ministry of Defence later today.