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Soldiers' bodies return to Britain

Hundreds of mourners paid silent tribute as the bodies of two soldiers killed in Afghanistan were brought back to Britain.

The bodies of Sapper Darren Foster, 20, of 21 Engineer Regiment, and Sapper Ishwor Gurung, 21, of the Queen's Gurkha Engineers, were flown into RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.

A private service was held for their families at the base's chapel before their Union Flag-draped coffins were driven along the High Street of nearby Wootton Bassett.

The market town has become the focus for the nation to mourn the deaths of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Crowds have appeared along the route to pay their respects since the bodies of British service personnel began being brought home through RAF Lyneham in April 2007.

Among the 200 mourners turning out to mark the sad homecoming were Gurkha comrades of Sapper Gurung, many of them clutching flowers. The cortege was delayed by an accident on the main road between RAF Lyneham and Wootton Bassett.

The soldiers died in separate incidents in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan on August 13.

Sapper Foster, from Whitehaven, Cumbria, was shot dead just three weeks into his tour while manning a lookout post at a patrol base in the dangerous Sangin district. He deployed to Afghanistan in July as a combat engineer in support of 40 Commando Royal Marines.

Lieutenant Colonel Bobby Walton-Knight, commanding officer of 21 Engineer Regiment, described him as a "young soldier with a great deal of promise" who was marked out by his "motivation, professionalism and pride".

Sapper Gurung was shot dead while helping to build a new sentry post at a base in Nad-e-Ali in Helmand. He was born in Pokhara, Nepal, and followed in his father's footsteps to become a soldier, passing selection to become a Gurkha in 2007. The young serviceman deployed to Afghanistan this year on his first operational tour. He was remembered by his comrades as a dedicated soldier and a talented sportsman who excelled at cross country running and boxing.

The British death toll in Afghanistan since 2001 now stands at 331.

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