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British Soldier Killed In Afghan Blast

Helmand Province has been a focus of fighting Taliban forces.
LONDON (Reuters) -- A British soldier has been killed in an explosion in Afghanistan, the 16th to be killed this month, the Ministry of Defense said.

The soldier from the 2nd Battalion The Rifles died from the blast while on foot patrol near Gereshk in the southern Helmand Province on July 16.

He is the 185th British Army soldier to be killed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

"It is with extreme sadness that I must report the death of a brave soldier," said Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson, spokesman for Task Force Helmand.

"He laid down his life for his country and for the good people of Afghanistan."

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.

British and U.S. forces are currently involved in a major operation to try to recapture territory from the Taliban in the province.

The growing number of recent deaths has raised questions over whether Britain has enough soldiers on the ground and the right equipment for the job -- and even if British troops should be there at all.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the presence in Afghanistan is vital to prevent militants linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda from exporting terrorism to the streets of Britain.