A British soldier was shot dead in Afghanistan on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defence in London said, the first British loss of life in the conflict since April.

The government said the soldier -- the 445th British serviceman to be killed in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in 2001 -- had been killed by enemy fire while on patrol in the restive southern Helmand Province.

"Despite receiving immediate medical attention, he died from his injuries at the scene," the ministry said in a statement, adding that the soldier's family have been informed.

Lieutenant Colonel Hywel Lewis, spokesman for Britain's Task Force Helmand, described the unnamed soldier as "the brightest and the best".

Britain currently has around 8,000 military personnel in Afghanistan, but just 5,200 will be left by the end of the year ahead of a full withdrawal by the end of 2014.

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