L/Cpl Stephen McKee named as Afghanistan death soldier

L/Cpl Stephen McKee
Image caption L/Cpl McKee was working to disrupt insurgents when he died

A soldier from 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday has been named as L/Cpl Stephen McKee.

The 27-year-old from Banbridge, County Down, was taking part in an operation in the Nad Ali area of Helmand province when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

The Ministry of Defence paid tribute to a "fine soldier, trustworthy and courageous".

The number of UK personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001 stands at 359.

L/Cpl McKee leaves behind his wife Carley, his parents Heather and Bobby, his brothers Michael, Gareth and Robert, and his sisters Kelly and Rebecca.

Lt Col David Eastman, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said L/Cpl McKee had been part of a group working to disrupt insurgent activity when the blast happened.

The 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment is based in Tern Hill, Shropshire.

The MoD said L/Cpl McKee had strong family connections with the regiment, with two brothers, a cousin and his father-in-law all serving in the First Battalion, and with another brother serving in the Second Battalion.

"He always had time for everyone. He was a family-man and showed enormous strength, particularly during a very difficult time last year when his two-day-old daughter passed away," the statement continued.

Carley McKee, paying tribute to her husband, said: "You will always be my hero and every step I take in life, I will have my two angels looking after me.

"You truly are the best husband, father, son and brother anyone could ask for. Till we meet again. Love you always."

L/Cpl McKee joined 3rd Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment as a part-time soldier in 2003.

When the Home Service were disbanded he decided to transfer to 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment and he joined them at Tern Hill in April 2007.

He was posted to B Company, where he served with distinction for three years before moving to the Machine Gun Platoon in D Company in 2010. He first deployed to Afghanistan on Operation Herrick 8 in March 2008.

Lt Col Colin Weir, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, said his death had "sent a wave of shock and sadness through this battlegroup".

He said: "Stephen McKee was the finest of men; he was irrepressible, he was utterly reliable and he was a fearsome warrior."

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