A British soldier may have been shot dead accidentally as he and a colleague cleaned their rifles, it is understood.
Ranger David Dalzell, 20, of 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, died on Friday in an “operational accident” in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) refused to be drawn on the circumstances surrounding Ranger Dalzell’s death and a spokeswoman said details of the accident would be heard during an inquest.
But it is believed the tragedy may have happened as he and a comrade cleaned their rifles inside their base.
Tributes were paid to Ranger Dalzell and Warrant Officer Class 2 Colin Beckett, Company Sergeant Major of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, who was killed on Saturday.
WO2 Beckett was attempting to secure an area in Shaheed, a village on the Nahr-e-Bughra canal, when he was caught in a roadside bomb.
Ranger Dalzell, who came from Bangor in County Down, Northern Ireland, was described as a “fearless” soldier by colleagues. His wife was expecting their first child later this month.
A total of 352 UK military personnel have now died since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001, including 42 who have died as a result of accidents, illness, non-combat injuries or who have not yet officially been assigned a cause of death.
Company Sergeant Major Colin Beckett was described as a “truly special husband” by his widow. The 36-year-old from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, who was known as Tom, was described by his colleagues as an inspirational and iconic leader.
He joined the army more than 20 years ago and has been on deployments to Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and three tours of Afghanistan.