PRESS ASSOCIATION -- A British soldier whose body was found after he went missing in southern Afghanistan was a man of "true grit" with a "heart of gold," his colleagues have said.
Highlander Scott McLaren of 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, disappeared from a Nato checkpoint in central Helmand province on Monday, sparking a massive 17-hour search.
The 20-year-old, last seen in the early hours of the morning, was found dead with gunshot wounds. It is understood the military believes he was killed by enemy forces but the circumstances of his death remain unclear.
The Taliban has claimed they captured the soldier during a firefight with foreign troops in the Babaji district of Helmand and that he died in crossfire shortly afterwards.
This version of events could not be corroborated and Nato said there were no reports of a battle in the area. The Ministry of Defence gave no further details about what happened.
Friends and relatives have lined up to pay tribute to the soldier, from the Sighthill area of Edinburgh, whose death dealt a "huge blow" to those serving alongside him.
A statement released on behalf of his family - parents James and Ann, sister Kirsty and brothers James and Ross - read: "We are deeply saddened by the news that our dear son Scott was killed in Afghanistan. We were extremely proud of Scott. He loved the Army and despite his short time in 4 SCOTS had made many friends."
Highlander McLaren, an "extremely accomplished" runner who was known to his friends as F1, joined the Army in August 2009 but served less than two years before his death.
Lieutenant Colonel Alastair Aitken MBE, Commanding Officer of Combined Force Lashkar Gah and The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, said the serviceman became the "most reliable and conscientious member of his platoon". He added: "Quiet and reserved, he had the true grit and determination of a traditional Highlander; when the times got tougher it was always "F1" who was still standing at the end."
Defence Secretary Liam Fox said he was "deeply saddened" by news of Highlander McLaren's death. He said: "I understand from his commanders that he was the most conscientious member of the platoon who could always be relied on and who will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this difficult time."