Second North soldier killed

Tributes were paid last night to a "hugely popular" North-East soldier who died while repairing a damaged tank in Afghanistan - less than six weeks after another of the region's servicemen was killed in the same troubled valley.

Lance Corporal Sean Tansey from Newcastle

Tributes were paid last night to a "hugely popular" North-East soldier who died while repairing a damaged tank in Afghanistan - less than six weeks after another of the region's servicemen was killed in the same troubled valley.

Lance Corporal Sean Tansey, 26, from Newcastle, was mending a Scimitar, at a British military base near the village of Sangin, in the southern Helmand province, when he was killed at 2.45pm on Saturday.

On July 5 Private Damien Jackson, 19, from South Shields, was killed in an ambush in the Sangin valley, as he tried to clear a helicopter landing site.

L/Cpl Tansey is the third British serviceman to be killed in the country in the past eight days, and 12 soldiers have now lost their lives in Afghanistan in the last two months.

It is not known how L/Cpl Tansey, who was a member of The Life Guards, was killed but an MoD spokesman said last night there would be an investigation into the circumstances of the accident.

Lt Col Edward Smyth-Osbourne, the lance corporal's commanding officer, paid tribute to the soldier, who had served in Iraq and had often been in the thick of the action.

He said: "L/Cpl Tansey was a bright and intelligent soldier, an extremely competent and utterly dependable operator. Always smart, always hard working, he was a very experienced reconnaissance soldier, who was not only respected professionally, but was also a charming individual, hugely popular among his peers.

"With his death the Household Cavalry has suffered the loss of another exceptionally talented member of the regiment. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."

He added the lance corporal, who was the Troop Leader's operator, was a "huge asset" to the squadron.

L/Cpl Tansey, who was single and had no children, joined The Life Guards in 1999 and in 2003 he was sent with D Squadron to Iraq, where he came into frequent contact with Iraqi troops.

He was an "outstanding" gunner, and driving and maintenance instructor, who had recently qualified as a regimental combat medical technician.

Pte Jackson was killed in the village of Sangin just four days before his 20th birthday.

The teenager, from the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, was a keen football fan and Sunderland FC season ticket holder.

At the time his father Daniel said: "I wish everyone to know just how extremely proud I am of my son Damien - of all that he has achieved in his lifetime and of the fact that he died, when duty called, protecting others, in the service of his country.

"A fine, upstanding South Shields lad, Damien was immensely proud to have achieved his ultimate ambition in becoming a member of the finest regiment in the British Army."

However, he added he could not support a Government policy, which placed soldiers in "such dreadful danger".

Pte Jackson's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Tootal, said Pte Jackson was an "excellent young soldier" who represented the very best of what being a paratrooper was all about.

He added: "He was extremely popular and a superb sportsman, he was also highly professional and always took care of those around him. Damien died doing the job he loved."

Last Wednesday Leigh Reeves, 25, of Leicester, died in a road accident at Camp Souter in Kabul.

And on August 6 Private Andrew Barrie Cutts, 19, from Nottinghamshire, died in the Sangin valley after taking part in the biggest offensive operation yet mounted by UK forces against the Taliban.

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Troops in `early stages of counter insurgency'

British troops involved in some of the heaviest fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan are only in the "very early stages" of the campaign to stabilise the country, a senior officer said yesterday.

Major Huw Williams, 39, from Cardiff, second in command of 3 Para, has seen his troops take part in some of the fiercest fighting in the Helmand Province over the last three months.

They were involved in around 44 firefights in just 25 days with the Taliban constantly trying to break down the UK's defences. With three more months of the 3 Para tour to go, he said there was still a considerable amount to do.

"We are still very much in the early stages. What is a six month tour for us is just the entry, we would like to see more development, we would like to see it going that way. But at the moment we are in the very early stages of counter insurgency, we are having to fight in some areas to establish the security that we need."

Maj Williams said the attacks in recent days had lessened with smaller incidents in hotspots in the north of Helmand. On Saturday, in Musa Qaleh, there was a grenade attack and a separate firefight involving mortars.

He said it could take six months or a year before troops moved out and potentially up to three years before Afghan security forces took over.

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