Five British servicemen killed when the Lynx helicopter they were travelling in crashed in southern Afghanistan have been named by the Ministry of Defence.
Captain Thomas Clarke, Warrant Officer Spencer Faulkner, Corporal James Walters, all of the Army Air Corps (AAC) lost their lives together with Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan of the Royal Air Force and Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas of the Intelligence Corps.
The men died when their Lynx Mk9 helicopter, commonly used by Royal Marines to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions using sensors, cameras and recording equipment, came down on Saturday in the Takhta Pul district of Kandahar province, 30 miles from the border with Pakistan.
Ahmad Zia Durrani, a spokesman for the Kandahar police chief's office, said the helicopter was on a “training flight” when the tragedy occurred.
Three of the servicemen were from a sub-unit of 9 Regiment, the Army Air Corps, based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire. Prince Harry was an Apache helicopter commander with the Army Air Corps, 3 Regiment.
A Royal Air Force serviceman stationed at the same base also died, along with a member of the Army Reserve from 3 Military Intelligence Battalion, based in London.
Group Captain Richard Maddison, Station Commander at RAF Odiham, said: "I am extremely saddened to hear of the loss of Captain Thomas Clarke, Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan, Warrant Officer Spencer Faulkner and Corporal James Walters, all who served at Royal Air Force Odiham.
"My deepest sympathies are with their families and friends at this most difficult time, and also with the family of Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas, who was not from Royal Air Force Odiham but who was also on the Lynx aircraft."
It is the third biggest single loss of life of British troops since the conflict in Afghanistan began in 2001, and brings the total number of UK service personnel killed there to 453.
Prime Minster David Cameron paid tribute to the men who lost their lives.
He said: “My heart goes out to the families and friends of those killed in this terrible tragedy.
"Every British fatality is a source of deep sadness. This latest incident, which has cost the lives of five UK service personnel, brings home to us all once again how our armed forces continue to put their lives on the line to help the people of Afghanistan.
“I cannot pay high enough tribute to each and every one of them for the job that they do and the sacrifices that they make.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband said people across the UK would be saddened by the news, calling it “a tragic and poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces in serving our country with bravery and distinction”.
The MoD statement dispels claims made by the Taliban that insurgents had shot down the helicopter.
The BBC reported that sources had suggested the crash may have been caused by "technical problems".
The incident is believed to be the worst involving a British military helicopter in Afghanistan since the war began there more than 12 years ago.
In September 2006 a Nimrod surveillance aircraft from RAF Kinloss in Scotland exploded in mid-air near Kandahar, killing all 14 servicemen on board, while in March 2012 six soldiers died when their Warrior armoured fighting vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Helmand Province.
In May 2006, a Lynx aircraft crashed in Basra City, Iraq, killing the five servicemen on board.
The deadliest single incident for US troops came in August 2011, when the Taliban shot down an American Chinook helicopter near Kabul, killing 30 Americans and eight Afghans.
Saturday’s crash comes as Nato forces are preparing to withdraw combat troops by the end of this year, with responsibility for fighting the Taliban uprising handed over to the Afghan army and police.
So far this year, 23 Nato troops are estimated to have been killed in Afghanistan.
Additional reporting by Press Association