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British deaths in Afghanistan exceed Iraq

LONDON, June 5 (UPI) -- A 19-year-old rifleman from Reading has become the 137th British serviceman to die from hostile fire in Afghanistan, the military says.

The death of Cyrus Thatcher means that Britain has suffered more casualties in Afghanistan than the 136 deaths recorded in Iraq before its combat operations ended there last month, The Times of London reported Friday.

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Thatcher, of the 2nd Battalion The Rifles, was killed by an explosion while on patrol in Helmand Tuesday.

"He was one of the best," said his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Rob Thomson. "He was one of those few who genuinely had a rucksack of potential."

Shadow Defense Secretary Liam Fox says coalition forces in Afghanistan are facing a resurgent Taliban.

Britain plans to increase the number of troops on the ground during the summer to 9,000 from 8,300 to help counter the threat.

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