Bloodiest month yet for British forces in Afghanistan as another soldier is killed by a landmine (Afghanistan/UK)
British ground forces in Afghanistan have suffered their bloodiest month since the invasion to topple the Taliban seven years ago. The death of a soldier on Saturday brought to 13 the number of men and women killed in the last 21 days. The soldier stepped on a landmine while on patrol in Lashkar Gar in the Helmand province.
British ground forces in Afghanistan have suffered their bloodiest month since the invasion to topple the Taliban seven years ago.
The death of a soldier on Saturday brought to 13 the number of men and women killed in the last 21 days.
The soldier stepped on a landmine while on patrol in Lashkar Gar in the Helmand province.
Accident: Warrant Officer 2nd Class Dan Shirley, 32, died on Friday when his patrol vehicle flipped over. Since then, another British soldier has been killed
Another died on Friday while protecting a supply convoy, when his heavily-armed Land Rover overturned in the desert.
The grim total for June is worse than the previous highest figure of eight dead in August 2006 - when British troops had just moved into Helmand Province as they faced constant Taliban attacks in key towns.
Only September 2006 saw a higher total number of British deaths, with 14 men killed in a single incident when an RAF Nimrod spyplane exploded in mid-air due to a fuel leak.
In the same month five men were killed in fighting on the ground.
Earlier this month senior British military commanders privately voiced hopes that the customary upsurge in fighting during the Afghan summer - coinciding with the end of the poppy harvest - had yet to be seen.
It was believed that the Taliban had been successfully worn down over the past two years.
That optimism now appears badly misplaced as a spate of suicide attacks, roadside bombs and fierce firefights against the Taliban have brought the death toll to 110.
If the rate of casualties continues for the 8,000 British servicemen and women now deployed in Afghanistan, the Government's military and political strategy in Afghanistan are likely to come under increasingly intense scrutiny.
There was some cause for optimism yesterday as it emerged that a prominent Taliban leader in southern Afghanistan was killed in a precision missile attack by a British Apache helicopter gunship on Thursday.
A military spokesman said the man, known as Sadiqullah, was 'directly responsible for facilitating recent, fatal, IED [booby-trap bombs] and suicide attacks on British forces' - thought to include the blast which killed Corporal Sarah Bryant and three SAS soldiers earlier this month.
The helicopter successfully destroyed a truck carrying Sadiqullah and several of his fighters, close to the strategically vital Kajaki hydroelectric dam, following an intelligence tip-off.
The raid was 'conducted with meticulous precision and strikes a blow at the heart of the Taliban's leadership in southern Afghanistan', the spokesman said.
On Friday evening Warrant Officer Dan Shirley, a 32-year-old soldier from 13 Air Assault Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, was killed when his vehicle - thought to be an open-top WMIK Land Rover - rolled over while protecting a British supply convoy, pinning him underneath.
Two other soldiers were injured.
WO Shirley, formerly of the Parachute Regiment, came from Leicester and was married with two young children.
Colleagues paid tribute to him last night as 'the epitome of the airborne soldier.'
The latest death on Saturday morning came when a soldier from the 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment was killed.
His patrol was responding to a Taliban attack on a civilian aircraft at the airfield in Lashkar Gar - the provincial capital of Helmand, and supposedly one of the area's safer towns.
The soldier's next of kin have been informed, and he is expected to be formally named tomorrow.
Defence Secretary Des Browne is reported to have demanded a review of the use of lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rovers in Afghanistan amid mounting criticism that the vehicles - designed for use in Northern Ireland 20 years ago - lack adequate protection against roadside bombs.
The Ministry of Defence is spending hundreds of millions of pounds on new armoured vehicles, but officials insist there is still a role for the controversial Snatch truck, which critics have condemned as a 'death trap.'