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Bodies Of Eight British Troops Returning From Afghanistan

British Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth
LONDON (Reuters) -- The bodies of eight soldiers killed during the bloodiest 24-hours for British forces since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 are due to be flown back on July 14.

The men were killed in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan where British and U.S. forces are involved in a major operation to try to recapture territory from Taliban militants.

Britain has now lost 184 soldiers in Afghanistan, five more than during the campaign in Iraq. Of those, 15 were killed in the last two weeks.

The bodies of the soldiers -- Private John Brackpool, Corporal Lee Scott, Rifleman Daniel Hume, Rifleman James Backhouse, Rifleman Joseph Murphy, Rifleman Jonathan Horne, Rifleman Daniel Simpson, and Rifleman William Aldridge are due to return to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire at around midday.

After a flypast, there will be a private ceremony for families before a procession through the town of Wootton Bassett.

The death of eight soldiers in a single day has shocked and angered the public and led opposition politicians to demand the government say what it is doing to get more helicopters and well-armored vehicles to stretched frontline forces.

"The government must explain why our armed forces are having to do so much with so little," said Conservative defense spokesman Liam Fox, emphasizing Britain's lack of heavy-lift helicopters.

"If we cannot move our forces by air, they are more vulnerable on the ground. How on Earth did we get into such an unacceptable position?" he asked.

Britain has about 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, the vast majority of them in Helmand, which has been a focus of fighting against Taliban insurgents.

Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth said helicopter flying hours had been increased and additional helicopters and vehicles with heavier armor would be sent to the war zone -- next year.

"We have made great strides to increase helicopter capability and availability with a large degree of success over the last two years in Afghanistan," said Ainsworth.