Kiwi soldier wounded by 'insider attack'

ROB KIDD AND ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 14:10 27/10/2013

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Defence Force commander Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones has given more details on the Kiwi soldier shot in the foot in Afghanistan yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference, Lieutenant-General Jones said the Sergeant was with two Australian troops returning from a visit to a neighbouring Afghan army unit around 9am Afghan time yesterday.

Without warning, an Afghan soldier shot at them and hit one of the Australians in the chest.

Lieutenant-General Jones said the Australian's body armour shattered the bullet and a piece of shrapnel hit the New Zealander in the foot.

The Afghan shot three times in quick succession, then began to advance towards the group. The other Australian soldier shot and critically wounded him.

"We don't know of that is killed or just critically injured at this stage," Lieutenant-General Jones said.

The New Zealander was a member of the Afghan National Army Officer Academy support team.

The New Zealander was treated at the scene and then airlifted to Craig Hospital at Bagram Air Force Base, where he received further medical treatment.

He is in good spirits and has been in contact with family in New Zealand, the Defence Force said. All other New Zealand personnel in the area have been accounted for and are safe.

A decision on whether to take him back to New Zealand has not been made but his injury is not life threatening and he is well, Lieutenant-General Jones said.

The Australian soldier has light injuries to his arm.

The motivation for the attack is not known at this stage.

"There are a lot of insider attacks which have been occuring over the last few years," Lieutenant-General Jones said.

"Some of it is combat fatigue ... there is a lot of frustration about [Afghani] conditions of service. Some of it is ideologically driven. There are some insurgents or extremists who come in deliberately with the aim of ... creating a situation where they can shoot at the coalition forces. But the numbers of these attacks have decreased."

New Zealand forces always went accompanied by security teams for this reason, he said.

"Insider attacks" have been severely straining ties between the NATO-led alliance and the Kabul authorities.

They have become one of the Taliban insurgents' most effective weapons against the coalition.

Insider attacks have been on the rise in recent months, with at least five reported since September 21, compared to 11 incidents since the start of the year.

A flurry of attacks last year prompted the coalition to briefly suspend joint military operations, a cornerstone of its mission, and adopt measures limiting interaction between troops.

"If it gets worse it'll make the coalition plan for post-2014 come apart pretty quick," said an army strategist working on those plans.

Most foreign combat troops are due to leave by the end of next year, but a small mission may remain in Afghanistan to continue supporting its newly-formed military and police forces.

In total 10 Kiwi troops to have died in Afghanistan since 2010. New Zealand officially withdrew from Afghanistan in April but a contingent of 27 military personnel, including three SAS soldiers, stayed on for a year under an extension of the deployment approved by Cabinet.

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- Sunday Star Times

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