UK soldier dies in Afghanistan blast

A British soldier
Image caption There have been 377 British military deaths in operations in Afghanistan since 2001

A British soldier has been killed in an explosion in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has announced.

The MoD said the soldier from 1st Battalion The Rifles died in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province. Next of kin have been informed.

The MoD earlier named a soldier killed in Afghanistan on Saturday as L/Cpl Paul Watkins.

He joined the Army in September 2007 as a Foreign and Commonwealth soldier from Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

This latest death takes the number of British military deaths in operations in Afghanistan since 2001 to 377.

The soldier killed on Monday was escorting a specialist team to recover a cache of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) components when he was killed by the explosion of another device nearby.

Investigation launched

Task Force Helmand spokesman Lt Col Tim Purbrick said the soldier was killed near Jamal Kalay.

He said: "The soldier was part of a foot patrol which had been deployed to assist with the recovery of a cache of improvised explosive device (IED) components.

Image caption L/Cpl Paul Watkins was killed while on patrol in Helmand province

"As he led the specialist counter-improvised explosive device team to rendezvous with another patrol at the start of the operation, the soldier was fatally injured in an explosion. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."

L/Cpl Watkins, a Brigade Advisory Group member, was on a patrol with Afghan soldiers in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province when his team was fired on.

An investigation has been launched into his death after reports he was shot by a man dressed in an Afghan national army uniform.

The 24-year-old, who had served in the armed forces for four years, leaves behind his mother Jill, father Rod, and brothers Luke and Simon.

In a statement, his family said: "Paul wanted to join the Army from a very young age. He was proud to be a soldier and was proud of what he was doing; he died doing a job that he loved.

"He was such a loving and caring son, grandson and brother. He will be very sadly missed by his family and friends who loved him dearly."

And Lt Col William Fooks, Commanding Officer 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales's), said the soldier will be "missed immeasurably" but "never forgotten".

"L/Cpl Paul Watkins was absolutely someone you'd want on your team and by your side: tough, hugely dependable and determined yet compassionate," he said.

"When all around him was frenzied activity, L/Cpl Watkins would be serenely and reassuringly calm. And combined with his arid sense of humour and his disarming grin, a big problem very quickly became no problem at all."