Kiwis escape injury in second Do Abe attack
On the same afternoon it named two New Zealand soldiers killed in an attack in Afghanistan, the Defence Force has confirmed a second attack on Kiwi troops.
The soldiers were hit by a second attack this morning, this time on their forward base at Do Abe. However, there were no casualties.
The firefight came less than two days after two Kiwi soldiers were killed and six wounded, just south of Do Abe.
The Defence Force this afternoon named them as lance corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone.
Durrer was from Christchurch and Malone from Auckland. It was their first deployment to Afghanistan.
Malone was helping his company commander, one of the six injured, when he was killed instantly.
The troops were part of New Zealand's Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) based in the Bamiyan province.
The soldiers were killed when their armoured vehicles were fired at on Saturday night, New Zealand time. The Taleban reportedly claimed responsibility for the deaths.
In today's attack, insurgents got within 50m-100m of the New Zealand base, which is on the outskirts of the small mining town of Do Abe.
Defence Force chief Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones said the attack, just before midnight Afghan time, involved about 10 insurgents, "who closed in ... and opened fire with small arms and with rockets into our site".
"We responded with fire and we also deployed down from the (nearby forward base at) Romero site a reinforcement patrol," he said.
"We estimate this attack was to show that despite the injuries and casualties we caused on their first insurgent group, this - a second insurgent group - launched this attack to show that they were still around in the area.
"It did not cause any casualties, nor any significant damage to our patrol base."
After slightly less than an hour the insurgents broke off the attack.
Jones said such attacks were normally aimed at Afghan national police forces in the area.
"We assess this as really just a show of force."
Local police, stationed on the high hills around the base, were trained "at the lower-level tasks".
During the night they largely stayed in their camps, so "their ability to provide security for us around there is lesser than during the day".
Jones said the attackers occupied positions around the base and fired into it.
They did not try and capture the base or overrun it.
"They were largely firing for the sake of making a noise - firing hoping to cause some casualties."
New Zealand troops used night vision equipment to fire back. They did not know if the insurgents had suffered any casualties.
Patrols would go out to look, once daylight arrived.
The families of the two Kiwi soldiers killed in Afghanistan at the weekend say they are proud of their sons' time in the army.
"We are all thankful for the 26 years we had with Pralli and are proud of all that he accomplished in his short time with us,'' said Durrer's family, in a statement.
''He has had a rewarding career as a soldier and we know he had a positive effect on all those he worked alongside throughout his time with [the] NZ Army.''
Durrer's family had gathered together to support one another through his "sudden" death.
His grandfather said the soldier's mother died more than a decade ago, his father was "not around" and he had been raised by his aunt in Christchurch.
Malone's family said they were also extremely proud.
''Rory went to Afghanistan to do what he considered an important job which contributed to the greater good of the region. He did his job with honour and pride. Rory will be dearly missed by his family.''
Defence Force Chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said the men's bodies were at the Bagram US air base near Kabul and would be brought home as soon as possible.
The dead soldiers were killed after a "volley of fire".
New Zealand forces were not targeted but ran into forces trying to protect bomb makers, Jones said.
Troops had to leave their armoured vehicles to "engage" the insurgents.
Malone was fatally injured helping his company commander. He was killed instantly.
Durrer died in a helicopter on the way to Bagram.
Jones said he could not verify if the attackers were Taleban fighters.
The Defence Force still did not know how many insurgents New Zealand troops injured. Jones said it may never be known.
The insurgents historically didn't engage in a firefight with New Zealand troops because the Kiwi contingent had bigger firepower, Jones said.
The names of six wounded soldiers would not be released at this time, Jones said. One, shot in the neck, had been evacuated to one of the best military hospitals in Germany.
The Kiwi base at Do Abe was attacked later by up to 10 insurgents, but this did not cause any casualties or damage.
Jones described that attack as a "show of force". Shots were fired from 50 to 100 metres away.
There were no Afghan military forces in Bamiyan, only local police.
Jones said New Zealand could be proud of its efforts to boost schools and hospitals.
Locals appreciated the New Zealanders' work and were insulted by the attack by insurgents.
The dead and departing soldiers would be replaced, Jones said.
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said it was a tough time for all families, and the families of the deceased could be proud of their service record.
He said the Government was not looking to send the SAS back to Afghanistan. That would only happen if there was a major change in the situation in Bamiyan.
EARLIER DETAILS REVEALED
Prime Minister John Key revealed earlier this morning the two killed soldiers were in their 20s and neither had children.
The Defence Force was phoning the families of all 143 members of the PRT.
Key said he would contact the dead soldiers' families.
"They don't have a lot of family. Neither of them are married. One has a partner, but the partner's also part of the New Zealand Defence Force and actually is overseas. The other guy doesn't have a lot of family at all in New Zealand," he told Radio Live.
"Fortunately no children were involved."
Key said the insurgents who killed the two soldiers may have been testing local forces ahead of New Zealand's withdrawal of Kiwi troops from the Bamiyan province.
EARLY WITHDRAWAL UNLIKELY
New Zealand was unlikely to withdraw the PRT earlier than late next year as planned, despite growing danger in Bamiyan, Key said.
The withdrawal date has already been brought forward by the Government from September 2014 in line with Nato and the United States.
"What we will obviously do is take stock of what's taken place, re-group on that and have discussions with our ISAF (International Security and Assistance Force) and Nato partners," Key told TVNZ's Breakfast programme.
The situation for New Zealand troops was more hostile than it was when they first went into Bamiyan in 2003, Key said.
"There is greater firepower going in from the Taleban, they've got a new bomb maker, they are better resourced and the have moved people up from the Southern provinces."
The prime minister said it was believed the attack was from a group of 17 insurgents New Zealand troops had been tracking for some time.
"One of the theories is because Bamiyan is one of the first provinces likely to be transitioned, so control going back to the Afghan people, this is a bit of a show of strength if you like, to undermine the confidence of the people of Bamiyan because they know New Zealand is leaving."
The soldiers were "extremely well trained and have great equipment" but there were reports a rocket hit their light armoured vehicle, he said.
New Zealand would be responding to the increased risks in Bamiyan, Key said.
Saturday's attack happened two years to the day after Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell was killed when his patrol was attacked in the same area.
The deaths bring the total number of New Zealanders who have died in Afghanistan to seven.
Of those who were injured, three remained in a serious condition last night and were likely to be brought home as soon as possible. The other three suffered moderate injuries. All six had spoken to their families.