Britain lost its 100th soldier in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion after a suicide attack in the south of the country killed three soldiers on Sunday, the defense ministry said.
The head of Britain’s armed forces and the defense secretary both insisted, however, that progress was being made in Afghanistan, and that the soldiers’ deaths had not been in vain.
UK Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the chief of the defense staff, said he hoped that the families of the 100 soldiers who had lost their lives would find comfort in the fact that “our forces are engaged in a most worthy and noble endeavor.”
“Right across the country, the international effort is beginning to effect real change,” he said.
The influence of the Islamist Taliban militia was “waning,” he said.
“These deaths, though hard to bear, remind us all of the extraordinary sacrifices they and their families make on our behalf — and of the price of failure if we falter in Afghanistan,” Stirrup said. “We continue to owe them a great debt of gratitude.”
Defense Secretary Des Browne, meanwhile, described the progress being made in southern Afghanistan as “remarkable,” saying: “They have transformed the heartland of the Taliban from an area of lawless oppression and terrorism to a place of democracy and development.”
“Quite simply they exemplify the very best qualities of the human spirit ... We must never forget that this extraordinary achievement, which makes us all safer from the scourge of terrorism, has come at a very significant cost to our brave servicemen and women, their families and friends,” he said.
“Four soldiers were injured in [an] attack and were evacuated to the medical facility at Camp Bastion,” a defense ministry statement said.
Three of the soldiers died and one was expected to make a full recovery.
In related news, a Canadian soldier has died in an accident in southern Afghanistan, the defense ministry said on Sunday.
Canadian Captain Jonathan Sutherland Snyder from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry based in Edmonton “was killed after falling into a well while conducting a security patrol in Zhari District” on Saturday, the ministry said in a statement.
Fellow soldiers from his unit “tried to extract him from the well, but were unsuccessful,” the ministry said. Rescue teams later arrived and lifted Snyder out of the well, evacuating him by helicopter to a coalition hospital in Kandahar, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
The accident came after another Canadian soldier was killed last Tuesday in a clash with insurgents in the southern Panjwai district.
Canada has deployed 2,500 soldiers in southern Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led force fighting Taliban insurgents. Snyder’s death brings the Canadian death toll in Afghanistan since 2002 to 85 Canadian soldiers and a senior diplomat.
Meanwhile, a young Afghan journalist for the BBC was buried early yesterday, a day after being found shot dead in volatile southern Helmand Province, a relative said.
Police did not know who had abducted and killed Abdul Samad Rohani, 25, and were investigating the murder, Helmand police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal said.
The extremist Taliban, the Islamist insurgent movement that killed at least one journalist in Helmand last year, said it was not involved.
Rohani’s body was taken from the Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah to his nearby home district of Marja and buried in the family cemetery, relative Abdul Malik said.
His body was found on Sunday, a day after he had gone missing, dumped about 5km from Lashkar Gah, Andiwal said.
“Unknown armed men had abducted Rohani and his body was found yesterday. He had four bullets shot at his chest. We are investigating the case,” he said.
A Taliban spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, said his group was not involved in the killing and had been trying to locate the journalist after his colleagues said he had gone missing.
“We were also looking for him. We are not involved in his death and this is not our work,” he said.
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