Wednesday 7 March 2012

Six dead UK soldiers set to be named

Six British soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan by a Taliban bomb are to be named by the Ministry of Defence later. Five from 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment and one from 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment died while on patrol on Tuesday. It is the biggest single loss of UK life in Afghanistan since 2006. Meanwhile, head of the Armed Forces General Sir David Richards has told the Times the UK will "hold its nerve" in Afghanistan. He said the British military strategy would remain unchanged, with service personnel set to continue combat operations in the region until the end of 2014. The deaths took the number of British military deaths in Afghanistan since 2001 to 404. More information has emerged about Wednesday's incident. 'Powerful bomb' Senior army and intelligence officials in Helmand province told the BBC: "It was a joint Afghan National Army and British patrol from 215 Core of ANA - there was a distance between our vehicles. "It was a powerful bomb which had been planted recently. This area close to Kandahar's Maywand district is a major Taliban criss-crossing terrain - the Taliban fighters have been moving from this area from Kandahar's Panjwai to Maywand and than to Helmand province - they also would go from Helmand into Kandahar province.'' An Afghan intelligence official with the country's spy agency, the National Directorate of Security, told the BBC: "The patrols in this area were meant to deny and deprive the Taliban from movement from Kandahar into Helmand and from Helmand into Kandahar. "They knew that for quite some time that there was an increase in Taliban presence in the area, they had been active and present in the area and had been planting roadside bombs." General Richards said the progress made since entering the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks was "truly impressive". He said: "As progress continues the work of our servicemen and women will draw down but our efforts will endure. "Sadly, as we hold that course it is likely that others will lose loved ones." Some of the soldiers' colleagues spoke to the BBC last month of their fears about being posted to Afghanistan. He added that he and his troops do not "underestimate the dangers" faced in Afghanistan, but understood "the importance of the mission with which we are charged". "We will hold our nerve," he said. His comments echoed sentiments expressed by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond who said the timetable for withdrawal remained on track despite this "cowardly attack". "This will not shake our resolve to see through the mission - I believe we owe that to all the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives and put themselves at risk over the last few years," he told the BBC. The dead soldiers have now been returned to Camp Bastion in Helmand. Prime Minister David Cameron said the deaths marked a "desperately sad day for our country". "Every death and every injury reminds us of the human cost paid by our armed forces to keep our country safe," he said, at the start of Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday. In a statement, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the six soldiers were on a security patrol in a Warrior armoured fighting vehicle when it was caught in an explosion in Kandahar province.. The BBC understands that the area was sparsely populated and particularly unstable, with insurgents known to have planted roadside bombs there. BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said the six soldiers had been in the country for less than a month. Most of the 9,500 UK troops in Afghanistan are expected to be withdrawn by the end of 2014, when 13 years of combat operations in the country are set to cease.