Thursday, 17 December 2009

The two soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday gave their lives to stop Taliban suicide bombers reaching their target, their commanding officer has revealed.

Lance Corporal David Kirkness, 24, and Rifleman James Brown, 18, both of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, were killed while manning a vehicle checkpoint near Sangin in Helmand province.

Two Afghan soldiers were also killed in the suicide attack.

L/Cpl Kirkness, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, and Rfn Brown, from Farnborough, Hampshire, were taking part in a joint security operation with Afghan forces on a route into central Sangin.

Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Nick Kitson said their comrades took comfort and pride from the fact that they averted a "much larger tragedy".

"Their sacrifice prevented two suicide bombers from reaching their intended target, the bustling and ever more prosperous Sangin bazaar, packed with local Afghans going about their daily business," he said.

L/Cpl Kirkness, who joined 3 Rifles in March 2004, had completed a demanding sniper course and studied the local language of Pashtu before deploying to Afghanistan in October. He leaves a three-year-old daughter, Brooke.

His colleagues paid tribute to a professional and level-headed soldier with a "massive heart which was all too often worn on his sleeve".

Lt Col Kitson said: "We of the Rifles have lost a brother. He died doing a job for which he was the keenest of volunteers, a job he loved and for which he was made.

"His memory, commitment and selflessness will be for ever revered. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. We all have much of which we can be truly proud."

His parents said in a statement: "If you knew David, you had to love him - it was impossible not to. And in David's own words, 'If you didn't know me, hard luck'. He will always be in our hearts."

Rfn Brown only joined the Army this year, and had arrived with B Company of 3 Rifles less than a fortnight ago.

Lt Col Kitson said: "He had been with the battalion for a desperately short time but was showing the promising signs of a soldier with a bright future.

"He had already made a lasting impression on his fellow riflemen with his immense courage, infectious confidence and talent for making people laugh."

"Our thoughts are with his family, for whom this will have been the bitterest of blows."

Paying tribute in a statement, his family said: "You were a true hero and will be dearly missed. We all love you so much.

"You died a hero living your dream and you will always be in our thoughts. Your actions will always speak louder than words ever could."

A total of 239 British service personnel have died since the start of operations in Afghanistan in 2001, including 102 deaths this year.


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