London, England (CNN) - Britain's prime minister on Tuesday defended the mission in Afghanistan as "vital" to protecting his country from terrorists, following the death of the 100th British serviceman in Afghanistan this year. The soldier, from the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, was killed Monday by small arms fire in the Nad-e Ali area of Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, Britain's Ministry of Defence said.
The soldier was the 100th member of the British armed forces to die in Afghanistan this year, the ministry said. Britain has lost more than 200 service personnel in the country since the start of fighting in 2001. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown emphasized the "real impact" of the Afghan mission as he offered his condolences to the soldier's family.
The UK has the largest contingent in Afghanistan after the United States. The figure of 9,500 does not include special forces, said Brown, who declined to say exactly how many of those were there, but indicated it is more than 500.