PRIME Minister David Cameron has paid tribute to five British military personnel who were killed when a Lynx helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan.

They died when their aircraft crashed during a routine flight in Kandahar province yesterday, the Ministry of Defence said, in what appears to have been a tragic accident.

Three of the servicemen were from the Army Air Corps, based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, the regiment with which Prince Harry was an Apache helicopter commander.

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A Royal Air Force serviceman stationed at the same base also died, along with a member of the Army Reserve from 3 Military Intelligence Battalion, based in London.

The next of kin of all five servicemen have been informed of their deaths but none has yet been named.

It is the third biggest single loss of life of British troops since the conflict in Afghanistan began in 2001, and brings the total number of UK service personnel killed there to 453.

Mr Cameron said: "My heart goes out to the families and friends of those killed in this terrible tragedy.

"Every British fatality is a source of deep sadness. This latest incident, which has cost the lives of five UK service personnel, brings home to us all once again how our armed forces continue to put their lives on the line to help the people of Afghanistan.

"I cannot pay high enough tribute to each and every one of them for the job that they do and the sacrifices that they make."

The MoD denied claims by the Taliban that insurgents had shot down the helicopter, saying initial investigations indicated a technical problem rather than enemy action.