Robert McKibben, from Westport, Co Mayo, died alongside another marine in an explosion on Wednesday in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
MARY FITZGERALD and TOM SHIEL
TRIBUTES HAVE been paid to a Co Mayo man who died while serving with British forces in a volatile part of southern Afghanistan.
Robert McKibben (32), and fellow marine Neil Dunstan, from Bournemouth, were both killed in an explosion on Wednesday.
It is understood the two marines were on a routine joint patrol with Afghan security forces when the vehicle they were travelling in was struck by an explosive device in Garmsir, an area nicknamed "the Taliban gateway" to the restive Helmand province.
A member of the Afghan army was also killed and a third Marine was seriously injured in the attack.
Mr McKibben, who is survived by his parents and three siblings, left Westport at the age of 18 after studying at the town’s Rice College.
He joined the Royal Marines at 27 and trained as a commando before joining J Company 42 Commando based in Plymouth.
His family issued a statement through the British Ministry of Defence yesterday saying they were extremely proud of "Robbie".
The statement added: "He had very definite plans of how he wanted to live his life; he was always thoughtful, considerate and had an amazing sense of humour that touched so many lives. He was so full of life and was loved so much by his family and by all his friends.
"Robbie has left a huge void in our hearts and he will never be forgotten."
Commanding officer Maj Chris Haw paid tribute to the two soldiers. He said Mr McKibben had proved "time and time again that he was a strong field soldier under the most demanding of conditions and was passionate about his job."
Westport priest Fr Mícheál Mannion said the family and local community were devastated by the killing.
Mr McKibben’s death brought to 124 the number of fatalities suffered by British forces in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion to overturn Taliban rule in 2001.
It coincided with an increasingly heated debate in Britain over whether additional troops should be sent to Afghanistan. Britain is the second-largest contributor of foreign forces in the country after the US.
During a visit to London this week, Afghan president Hamid Karzai called for the deployment of more troops to help fight the growing Taliban insurgency. A BBC poll, however, found that more than two-thirds of respondents wanted British forces to leave Afghanistan within a year.
© 2008 The Irish Times