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Suicide blast kills soldiers.

Byline: Mail Reporter

TWO British soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber during a mission intended to reassure local Afghans.

The members of the 3rd Battalion, The Rifles, who were attacked while on a joint patrol with Afghan forces near Sangin, Helmand province, are expected to be formally named later today.

The Ministry of Defence said the soldiers were on foot patrol at the time of the explosion, in which two Afghan National Army soldiers also died.

News of yesterday's fatalities came after the first of 500 extra British troops arrived in Afghanistan and Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth announced a package of cutbacks in core defence programmes to fund pounds 900 million of new equipment for troops in the country.

The deaths brought the total number of British service personnel to have died since the start of operations in Afghanistan in 2001 to 239. There have been 102 deaths this year alone.

Lieutenant Colonel David Wake-field, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "It is with deep sadness I must inform you that two British soldiers were killed near Sangin in northern Helmand province.

"They were both from 3rd Battalion, The Rifles. They will be sorely missed by us, their comrades, but their sacrifice will not be forgotten."

The MoD was unable to confirm local reports that the soldiers died after two suicide bombers on a motorcycle attacked a military convoy.

British troops fell victim to another suicide strike near Sangin last year.

In December, a 13-year-old boy killed three Royal Marines in the strife-torn area while apparently pushing a wheelbarrow in which a bomb was hidden under papers. Cuts announced by Mr Ainsworth will mean the closure of RAF Cottesmore in Rutland and the immediate loss of one squadron of Harrier fast jets; reductions in overall service personnel numbers and some aspects of Army training; the early withdrawal of Nimrod MR2 surveillance planes; and the removal from service of one survey ship and one minehunter.

Prince Harry paid tribute to the "immense courage" of a group of bereaved military mothers as he presented the "quite remarkable ladies" with an award for their charity efforts.

The group, known as the Band of Mothers, first met as their sons' bodies were repatriated to RAF Lyneham on July 14 and later set up the charity Afghan Heroes which supports bereaved families and frontline troops.

The Prince presented the group with a Special Recognition award.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Dec 16, 2009
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