British soldier becomes first victim of 2009 in Afghanistan

January 2nd, 2009 - 5:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Kabul, Jan 2 (DPA) A British soldier was killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan, marking the first loss of the year for the NATO-led international forces in the war-ravaged country, officials said Friday.The soldier was killed in a roadside bomb attack in Sangin district of the southern province of Helmand Thursday, the New Year’s Day, a NATO spokesman said.

The soldier’s death came a day after another British soldier was killed in the same province. The soldier was the last British service member to die in 2008. A total of 138 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since their deployment in late 2001.

“We are saddened by this brave soldier’s death, and our deepest sympathies go to his family and loved ones, especially during this season,” Royal Navy Captain Mark Windsor, a NATO spokesman, said in a statement issued by the alliance in Kabul.

“This dedicated professional risked his life to help bring security to the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

More than 8,000 British soldiers are stationed in Helmand province as part of some 50,000-strong NATO-led forces deployed to Afghanistan from 40 nations.

Helmand province is the main hub for Taliban activities. The province witnessed the fiercest clashes between Taliban and Afghan forces backed by NATO troops last year.

With more than 290 foreign soldiers killed in 2008, last year was the deadliest year for the nearly 70,000 international forces in Afghanistan. The year also witnessed an increase in attacks by Taliban-led insurgents.

The number of roadside bombings, a common tactic for the Taliban militants, nearly doubled last year with around 2,000 attacks that mainly targeted Afghan and foreign forces, according to US officials.

The militants also carried out more than 120 suicide attacks.

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