Byline: Jerome Starkey, Lucy Ballinger
THREE soldiers were killed in a suicide blast yesterday, bringing theBritish death toll from the Afghanistan conflict to 100.
The men, from 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, were on foot patrol inHelmand province when a man ran up to them and detonated his explosive vest.
One of the Paras was killed at the scene. Two more were seriously injured andtaken by helicopter to hospital in Camp Bastion, where they died of theirwounds.
A fourth soldier was also hurt but his condition was said not to be critical.
Officials said the men were on a routine foot patrol in Helmand's poppy belt,north of Sangin. The town is a Taliban hotspot which has claimed more Britishlives than any other part of Helmand. The dead soldiers will not be namedpublicly by the Ministry of Defence until their families have been informed.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, paid tribute tothe 100 'brave and professional servicemen' who have died in Afghanistan. Hesaid he reflected on the most recent deaths with 'both a sense of deep sadnessand pride' as he asserted that the military effort was starting to achieve realchange.
Sir Jock went on: 'Every one of those deaths is a tragedy. Nothing can evercompensate for the loss felt by their loved ones and to them all I extend mydeepest sympathies.
'I only hope that the terrible hardship that they have been asked to bear canbe eased by certainty that in Afghanistan our forces are in a most worthy andnoble endeavour.' Defence Secretary Des Browne expressed his to the relatives,comrades and of the three soldiers killed. He added: My thoughts at this timeare also with the ones of each and every one of the 100 members of the BritishArmed who have now lost their lives in ' They gave their lives securing freedomand not just for the people of Afghanistan as the tragic events of 9/ 11showed, for all us. We will never forget them.' Mr Browne spoke of the ' aweand admiration' the courage and dedication of British troops by all visitors toAfghanistan.
He said: ' As a nation we have always been proud of our Armed Forces, and withconsiderable justification. Quite simply they exemplify the very best qualitiesof the human spirit.
'Their effect on southern Afghanistan in the last two years has beenremarkable. They have transformed the heartland of the Taliban from an area oflawless oppression and terrorism to a place of democracy and development.
' We must never forget that this extraordinary achievement, which makes us allsafer from the scourge of terrorism, has come at a very significant cost to ourbrave servicemen and women, their families and friends. …