UK

UK soldier killed in Afghanistan

A British soldier
Image caption There have been 390 British military deaths in operations in Afghanistan since 2001

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

The serviceman, from 5th Battalion The Rifles, was on a foot patrol in the Babaji area of Helmand province's Nahr-e Saraj district.

Task Force Helmand spokesman Lt Col Gordon Mackenzie said prayers were with his family, who have been informed.

The death takes the number of British troops killed since operations began in the country in 2001 to 390.

Col Mackenzie said the soldier was serving as part of Combined Force Nahr-e Saraj (South) and was a member of an International Security Assistance Force patrol.

Power shift

"I have the sad duty to inform you that a soldier from the 5th Battalion The Rifles was killed earlier today after an explosion while on a foot patrol to disrupt insurgent activity," he said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this very difficult time."

News of the death came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that the UK-controlled Nad Ali district of Helmand would soon be handed over to Afghan forces.

It is the second area in Helmand transferred from UK military control following the town of Lashkar Gah, which was handed over as part of a first phase of transfers from July.

Mr Karzai named all or parts of 18 provinces, home to about 50% of the population, to be transferred in a second phase due to begin early next year.

He hopes his forces will take control of the entire country by the end of 2014.

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