Three British soldiers have killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan.
The soldiers, from The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, were on a routine patrol when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Nahr-e Saraj district, Helmand Province.
It is the first IED (improvised explosive device) incident of 2013 and came on the third day of what the Taliban has called its spring offensive. Nine Afghans were also killed in the attack and another six soldiers were injured.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the country had paid a "very high price" for the work it was doing in Afghanistan, but he said that work was "vital" in making sure the country "doesn't again become a haven for terrorists".
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the incident underlines the continued danger faced by soldiers as they prepare to pull out of Afghanistan in 2014.
"Security in Helmand, where most UK forces are based, is steadily improving with Afghan forces already responsible for the bulk of the province - but the environment in which our troops operate remains risky and dangerous, including the threat of improvised explosive devices and insurgent attack.
"We will continue to do all we can to minimise these risks but they can never be removed entirely."
In past years, spring has marked a significant upsurge in fighting between the Taliban and Nato forces with their local allies.
The insurgents warned they would infiltrate enemy ranks to conduct "insider attacks" and target military and diplomatic sites with suicide bombers.
This fighting season is a key test, as the international coalition is scheduled to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces next year.
The deaths take to 444 the number of UK service members who have lost their lives since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001.
Six have now died in 2013.
Major Richard Morgan, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said:"Their deaths come as a great loss to all those serving in Task Force Helmand.
"Our thoughts and prayers are extended to their family and friends at this difficult time."
Other blasts throughout the country killed nine civilians and a police commander.