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Six British soldiers feared dead in Afghan blast

By Katie Hodge

Six soldiers are missing, believed killed, after an armoured vehicle was caught in an explosion in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said today.

The group - which included five soldiers from the 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment and one from the 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment - was on a mounted patrol when their Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle was struck.

If the servicemen are confirmed dead, it would take the total number of British forces personnel or MoD civilians who have died while serving in the war-torn region to more than 400 since the start of operations in October 2001.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "This tragic incident brings home to us the dangers that are faced on a daily basis by the men and women of our Armed Forces deployed in Afghanistan.

"My thoughts are with the families and friends of the six soldiers who are missing, believed killed and also with their colleagues, both in Afghanistan and the UK, whose brave work continues or is about to start.

"I utterly condemn those responsible for this incident who will ultimately fail to derail a mission that is protecting our national security at home and making real progress in Helmand Province - a testament to the bravery, commitment and professionalism of our Armed Forces.

"We should never forget those who have lost their lives in Afghanistan to protect our national security.

"It is because of the continuing efforts of our Armed Forces, working alongside the Afghan National Security Forces, that we are on course to build an Afghanistan that can stand on its own two feet when UK combat operations cease at the end of 2014 and never again becomes a haven for international terrorism."

Chief of Defence Staff General Sir David Richards said: "I was deeply saddened by the news of this incident and that six soldiers are believed to have lost their lives doing what is a dangerous but important job.

"My thoughts and prayers at this difficult time are with the families of those affected by this tragic event.

"This campaign has seen many personal tragedies and we owe it to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to recognise that their courage and skill is visible in the ever more capable Afghan Army and Police.

"Increasingly the Afghans themselves are taking the lead in providing security across Helmand. This transition is allowing Afghans to gain the confidence to reject the Taliban and live normal lives.

"The courage, fortitude and determination of those servicemen and women currently in Helmand is inspirational. They have not once wavered but, every day, mix the professionalism of which we are all so proud with deep commitment and determination.

"The support shown by the public towards our men and women continues to be a source of great strength for the Armed Forces. They feel strongly that they are protecting us all through their service in Afghanistan."

Five members of 2nd Battalion The Rifles were killed in two separate explosions in Helmand on July 10 2009.

The same year, another five servicemen - three from the Grenadier Guards and two from the Royal Military Police - died at the hands of a rogue Afghan policeman in the Nad-e'Ali district of Helmand Province on November 3.

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