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ASIA: Two British soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Sun Jul 5 19:43:01 EST 2009

KABUL, July 5 AFP - Two British soldiers were killed in a bomb blast in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province where US Marines and British troops are cracking down on Taliban insurgents, the military says.

"Two International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members were killed in an IED (improvised explosive device) strike in southern Afghanistan yesterday (Saturday)," ISAF said in a statement on Sunday.

One soldier died as a result of a rocket-propelled grenade attack, while the other was killed by an explosion during Operation Panther's Claw near Gereshk, in central Helmand province, the Ministry of Defence in London said in a statement on Sunday.

Two more British soldiers involved in the same operation were killed in an explosion on Wednesday, one of them the first commanding officer to die in operations since 1991.

The deaths took the number of British service personnel to have died in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in 2001 to 173.

Operation Panther's Claw is a major airborne assault on a Taliban stronghold launched at the end of June.

Around 4,000 Marines are meanwhile fighting in insurgent bastions further south. One Marine was killed in hostile fire at the start of the assault on Thursday.

The Marine campaign is one of the biggest operations against the Taliban since the US-led invasion ousted them from government in late 2001.