Family's tribute to paratrooper killed in 'friendly fire' incident

A BRITISH Army paratrooper killed in an apparent friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan was "never prepared to accept less than the best", his family said.

New Zealander Private John "Jack" Howard died while on patrol in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan on Sunday.

Initial reports suggest he could have been shot by cannon fire from a low-flying US plane, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

The 23-year-old, from Wellington, serving in the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, was "always striving for the next challenge", his family told New Zealand media.

In a statement, they said they were "absolutely devastated to lose our son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin".

They went on: "Jack was immensely proud to be both a para and a New Zealander,

"He was absolutely passionate about what he was doing.

"His decision to try for the paras, which he regarded as the foremost infantry regiment in the world, reflected this drive and passion."

The incident was the 11th suspected death by friendly-fire since operations began in Afghanistan, and the third this year, the MoD said.

Two more servicemen were injured in the attack, sources said.

The MoD has launched a full investigation into the incident, which military experts suggested could have been a case of "mis-identification".

The paratrooper was part of an operation working to increase security in the district, Task Force Helmand spokesman Lt Col David Eastman said.

"He has made the ultimate sacrifice protecting the people of Nad-e Ali from insurgent intimidation and defending his country from the threat of terrorism; no more could be asked of any soldier," said Lt Col Eastman.

"He will be greatly missed by all who knew him."

His parents and two sisters added: "He was the fourth generation of our family to serve in the military.

"Jack was well read and believed strongly in what he was doing. He had an understanding of the conflict he was engaged in and prepared his position robustly. However he never let his profession detract from his innate humanity.

"Jack died serving alongside some of the great friends he had made in the army. He comes from a strong and loving family and we miss him dearly."