Conflict & Justice

Death of British soldier mars Cameron visit to Afghanistan

A British solder was found dead with gunshot wounds Tuesday after going missing from his base in Afghanistan, marring a visit by Prime Minister David Cameron intended to highlight improving security.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for killing the soldier who was reportedly last seen early Monday at a checkpoint near the base in the southern district of Nahr-e Saraj.

"He had suffered gunshot wounds," NATO spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick said.

"His exact cause of death is still to be established and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and death are currently under investigation.

"It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."

Sky News said it had information indicating the soldier, whose name has not been released, left the base to go for a swim in a village where NATO-led forces have been engaged in counter-insurgency operations.

His disappearance triggered a massive NATO search.

It also forced Cameron, who arrived in Afghanistan on Monday, to cancel plans to visit southern Helmand province's capital Lashkar Gah, one of a handful of towns earmarked for an early handover to Afghan forces.

While there was still hope the soldier would be found alive, Cameron told reporters he did not want to distract the military's attention from the search.

"It's just absolute common sense that the military should concentrate on the most important requirement of all which is to help and find this person rather than to bother flying me around," he said, according to AFP.