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Deployed to Afghanistan's 'Hell'
by BBC (reposted)
Sunday Aug 6th, 2006 10:52 AM
In the first ever land deployment outside Europe for Nato forces led by the UK and Canada, 8,000 soldiers are now positioned in six of Afghanistan's southern provinces. Helmand province, in particular, has been the scene of heavy violence.
In the fierce heat of the Kandahar summer, eking out what little shade I could while waiting by the runway for a military flight, I got chatting to a British soldier.

He was on his way to what here they call "Hell"... the itchingly sandy and repressively hot Camp Bastion in the Helmand desert, miles from the nearest town, where sandstorms can last for days and where thousands of British troops are now based.

"When I joined up 10 years ago," he said, "people rarely knew anyone who had died in action. Now, pretty much everyone you speak to knows someone who's been killed here or in Iraq."

Helmand is not a pleasant place to be.

It is not only hot and dusty, but as a heartland for the Taleban and the biggest producer of opium poppies in the country, it is also a very dangerous place.

Counting the days

I spoke to a medic about how she was getting on.

"Eight weeks to go before R and R (rest and recuperation)," she said.

I smiled and added that most troops I spoke to knew exactly the number of days they had left on their tour.

by UK Independent (reposted)
Monday Aug 7th, 2006 7:12 AM

Another British soldier has been killed in Helmand province in Afghanistan during an offensive against the resurgent Taliban.

The soldier was shot yesterday in an attack in the Musa Qala area, an Islamist stronghold in the Sangin Valley, where three British soldiers were killed last week. The mission is said to have led to the killings and capture of several suspects, including a Sunni cleric with links to insurgents.

The death brings to 10 the number of UK soldiers who have been killed in Helmand in the past two months. British forces have engaged in 25 actions against the Taliban since May. Military sources said the soldier was part of a team driving armoured trucks. The convoy was supported by helicopters, armoured cars and the Parachute Regiment. The death was described as a "lucky shot" rather than an effective ambush.

As well as the recent spate of British deaths, four other Nato soldiers were killed in one day last week. A series of suicide bombings, widely prevalent in Iraq but unknown until recently in Afghanistan, have claimed more than 30 lives in the past 10 days. Capt Alex Eida, 29, 2nd Lt Ralph Johnson, 24, and L/Cpl Ross Nicholls, 27, who died last Tuesday, were the latest British victims in the conflict against the Islamists.