Two soldiers killed in Afghan blast

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The Independent Online

Two soldiers have been killed in an explosion while on foot patrol in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said.



The deaths of the soldiers from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, take the total number of deaths of UK service personnel since operations began in 2001 to 210. Their next of kin have been informed.

The pair were killed in the explosion while on a foot patrol north of Lashkar Gah District, southern Helmand, on Monday morning, the MoD said.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson, a spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "Everyone in Task Force Helmand is deeply saddened by the deaths of these two brave soldiers. While there are no words that can ease their loss, our heartfelt sympathies go to their families, friends and fellow soldiers at this extremely difficult time."

Earlier, it emerged only nine judges are working in an area of Afghanistan almost the size of England. Efforts have been intensified to train more and bring justice to outlying areas, an official in Helmand province said.

Instead, tribal justice or the cruel beheadings and amputations of Taliban warlords cover many of the less accessible parts, governance adviser Kate Fearon, from the provincial reconstruction team, added.

"The Taliban has appropriated the elder system but really inverted it and used it to execute really cruel punishments," she said.

"They hijacked it and they imposed hideous punishments - amputations, beheadings, stuff which the elders and the population would see as very cruel," she said.

"People live in fear and are so intimidated by it sometimes in the area where formal justice doesn't reach out, they have no choice but to go to the Taliban and that is an unfortunate situation to be in."

She said the international community was working to link the elder system, whereby senior village members dispense justice for less serious crimes, to the formal courts where there are presently delays in hearing cases for major offences.

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