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Blast Rocks Iraqi Holy City on Election Eve

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan Saturday, to thank British troops for their service in that war-torn country.

Mr. Brown met with soldiers at Camp Bastion in the southern province of Helmand. He thanked the troops for their role in a joint Afghan and NATO offensive to take control of the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in the province.

He also promised that the government will support their efforts with additional equipment and resources.

Britain's military announced the death of one of its soldiers in an explosion in Helmand Friday. More than 265 British military personnel have been killed since the start of the war in Afghanistan in 2001.

The prime minister rejected criticism from conservatives who said he traveled to Afghanistan to divert attention from an inquiry into the Iraq war. Mr. Brown said he had planned the trip to Afghanistan for some time.

Speaking to a panel of inquiry in London Friday, Mr. Brown defended Britain's decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He served as treasury chief and made decisions about defense spending when his country entered the war in 2003.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.