Tributes to UK soldiers killed in Afghanistan rescue

British troops in Afghanistan
Image caption UK soldiers will not remain in a combat role in Afghanistan beyond 2015, Mr Cameron says

Two British soldiers shot dead in Afghanistan trying to rescue a wounded colleague have been praised for their "courage" and "selflessness".

A UK military spokesman said they died helping their friends, and their sacrifice would never be forgotten.

The men from The Royal Dragoon Guards and 1st Battalion Scots Guards died in the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand on Wednesday. The families have been told.

A total of 324 UK service personnel have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

The number killed in the first half of this year was double that in the first half of 2009.

Lt Col James Carr-Smith, spokesman for the British military's Task Force Helmand, said: "The soldiers were part of a cordon operation providing security for a routine rotation of troops when they were killed by small arms fire.

"In the courageous and selfless act of attempting to evacuate an injured colleague, they themselves were shot and fatally wounded.

"They died helping their friends. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten. We will remember them."

Meanwhile, the bodies of four British servicemen killed in separate incidents in Afghanistan inside 24 hours have been repatriated to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.

Staff Sgt Brett Linley, 29, of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, and Sgt David Monkhouse, 35, of The Royal Dragoon Guards, both died on Saturday.

Senior Aircraftman Kinikki Griffiths, 20, of 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, and Marine Jonathan Crookes, 26, of 40 Commando Royal Marines, died the previous day.

The families of the men wept side by side as hearses carrying their bodies passed through the nearby town of Wootton Bassett. Hundreds of people turned out to pay their respects.

The latest deaths come after Prime Minister David Cameron defended the coalition government's statements over plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

The prime minister, his deputy Nick Clegg and Foreign Secretary William Hague have all said British forces would not remain in a combat role beyond 2015.

Mr Cameron has also said the pull-out would be "conditions-based".

In the Commons, shadow foreign secretary David Miliband accused the government of sending out "mixed messages".

Talking to the BBC, Mr Cameron said there was "absolutely no contradiction between the two things".

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