London: Colleagues and family of a British soldier who was found dead in Afghanistan paid tribute on Tuesday after an Afghan commander said he had drowned whilst swimming before being shot by Taliban insurgents.
"We are deeply saddened by the news that our dear son was killed," the family of Scott McLaren said in a statement.
"We were extremely proud of Scott," the statement added. "His family and friends... will miss him dreadfully. We will always be thinking of him."
The 21-year-old soldier's mysterious death in Helmand province, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility, forced visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron to abandon a trip to the provincial capital Lashkar Gar.
The soldier, who hailed from the Scottish capital Edinburgh, was part of The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
"Highlander McLaren was the perfect example of what makes a Scottish soldier great," said his commanding officer Captain Callum MacLeod.
"The Multiple has been robbed of a friend, and the Battalion of a talent that was only just beginning to shine," he added.
McLaren went missing from a checkpoint in the early hours of Monday and the Defence Ministry in London later announced that his body had been found with gunshot wounds.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox said he was "deeply saddened" by the death of the "brave and well liked soldier".
The top Afghan commander for the province, Sayed Maluk, said McLaren was found dead in a stream that ran through his military base, after apparently drowning, and his body was later shot by insurgents.
"According to the information I was given... he was swimming inside his base in a stream that runs through it. The flow of water was very fast and he drowned and his body was carried out of the base," said the commander of 215 Corps in Helmand.
"When the Taliban saw the body of a British soldier in the stream they shot his dead body," he claimed.
The Taliban claimed that its fighters kidnapped and killed a British soldier in Helmand, but the militia is known to routinely exaggerate its claims.
First Published: Wednesday, July 06, 2011, 12:08