Town mourns 6th soldier's death

AN ESSEX town was in mourning again last night as it emerged its sixth soldier had lost his life battling the Taliban in Afghanistan in the space of just three weeks.

Russell Claydon

AN ESSEX town was in mourning again last night as it emerged its sixth soldier had lost his life battling the Taliban in Afghanistan in the space of just three weeks.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) confirmed another soldier from 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment - whose barracks are in Colchester - was killed during a firefight in Helmand province yesterday.

The tragic news came on the same day of the funeral of 19-year-old Private Charles David Murray, also a member of the regiment, who lost his life along with two others in a suicide attack in southern Afghanistan earlier this month.

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But the town's MP, Bob Russell, last night quashed calls to bring the troops home, saying he was angry that Britain's NATO European allies would not back them up in Afghanistan.

The Liberal Democrat said news of the latest casualty was “desperately sad” but wanted to stress the soldier - who is expected to be named later today - had not lost his life in vain.

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“It is thanks to the men who died and their colleagues in Helmand that we can hope for a better and safer World,” he said.

However he added: “The vast majority of our European allies are not deploying troops to southern Afghanistan. Meanwhile Britain and a handful of smaller European countries are doing most of the work on the front line while other countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Italy are not deploying their troops.

“Yet their countries would suffer the consequences if we do not succeed in making Afghanistan a safer country.”

An MOD spokesman said the next of kin had been informed about the latest British fatality, who is believed to have been on a deliberate operation against the Taliban in the Upper Sangin Valley when he was fatally wounded.

His family have asked for a 24 hour period of grace before his name is released,” the spokesman said.

It brings the number of dead from the Colchester-based regiment up to six in the past three weeks.

On June 8 Pte Murray, Pte Nathan Cuthbertson, 19, and Pte Daniel Gamble, 22, who were all killed in a suicide blast by a lone insurgent as their foot patrol returned to base in the Upper Sangin Valley.

Four days later, on June 12, Lance Corporal James Bateman and Pte Sean Doherty were on a routine foot patrol near their base in the Upper Gereshk Valley in Helmand Province when they were killed after coming under Taliban fire.

More than 500 mourners attended Pte Murray's funeral at St James' Church in Carlisle yesterday.

His sister told the packed church that Dave, as he was known to friends and family, was “a hero”.

She said: “He followed his heart, he fulfilled his dream and more. The Army provided Dave with friends who became family.

“Dave always made the most of every second, he taught us the meaning of life with his carefree ways and determination and dreams.

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