Soldier who died in blast 'was hugely loved man'

The family of a British soldier originally from Fiji who died in an explosion in southern Afghanistan paid tribute to him yesterday, saying he was "a hugely loved man".

Private Joseva Saqanagonedau Vatubua, 24, of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was killed on Saturday near the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province.

In a statement released through the Ministry of Defence, his relatives said: "As a family we can't put into words how proud we are of Joseva.

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"He loved his job and he loved being in the family of The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

"Joseva was a keen rugby player and he was proud to play for the Army Sevens team.

"Joseva was also a member of the Battalion's Fijian Choir and he has sung in Canterbury Cathedral.

"Joseva is a hugely loved man who we will always miss but never forget."

Pte Vatubua was deployed to Afghanistan in October last year with B Company, 5 Scots, as part of the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment Battle Group.

He had been part of an operation targeting known enemy firing positions north of the village of Saidabad Kalayk, when he was killed by a bomb blast from the wall of a compound.

He joined the British Army in 2007 and was posted to B Company 5 Scots as a rifleman.

Lieutenant Colonel Adam Griffiths MBE, Commanding Officer The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, said "a loyal, well loved and respected young soldier" had been lost.

He said: "Pte Joseva Vatubua, known to everyone as "Big Joe", approached everything he did with an infectious sense of humour and a commitment that much of society would do well to emulate.

"However, his outwardly shy persona belied a real presence both at work and play, and particularly on the rugby field."

He added: "Fearless in battle, while empathetic to the predicament of Afghanistan and the local nationals living around his patrol base, he was at his best on operations, demonstrating a real awareness and understanding of what he was being asked to do.

"It was always a wonderful sight to see this mountain of a man surrounded by children when on patrol."