New Zealand troops in Afghanistan are extending their patrols further into the "badlands" east of Bamiyan to intercept insurgents responsible for the attack that killed two soldiers and injured six more.
Ministers yesterday approved the move, as soldiers again came under fire - but this time there were no casualties.
Sources said the approval was in response to earlier cross-border raids, not yesterday's attack or Saturday's firefight.
The chief of the defence force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, yesterday disclosed the names of the dead soldiers and more details of the attack on Saturday.
They were Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone, both 26.
Corporal Durrer was from Christchurch and Corporal Malone from Auckland. It was their first deployment to Afghanistan.
Corporal Malone died going to the assistance of his injured commanding officer when the troops, from the Provincial Reconstruction Team, came under a volley of fire after they went to the aid of local police.
The move to increase the range of the New Zealand patrols will have them regularly travel into Baghlan province, which is used as a base for insurgents to attack inside Bamiyan.
Baghlan is the responsibility of Hungarian forces. Prime Minister John Key was critical yesterday of their lack of patrols in the area and their refusal to patrol after dark.
"Hungarians don't go out at night - they might in Budapest, but not in Afghanistan."
Kiwi troops had always been able to cross the border. After the death of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell in 2010 the SAS had crossed the border in a raid on the insurgents responsible.
Yesterday morning insurgents launched an audacious attack on the Kiwi forward base at Do Abe, just north of the spot where the troops were ambushed on Saturday. There were no casualties, but insurgents got within 50 to 100 metres of the base.
General Jones said the attack, just before midnight Afghan time, was by about 10 insurgents, who opened fire with small arms and rockets. They did not try to capture the base or overrun it. "We assess this as really just a show of force."
After just under an hour, they broke off the attack.
General Jones said the 140-strong PRT would be brought back to full strength. But there was no need at this stage to redeploy the SAS.
He did not believe the insurgents were targeting the Kiwi troops, but had been covering their bomb-maker's withdrawal from the area.
The threats against New Zealanders mainly came from improvised explosive devices and, with a new group of insurgents in the area, there had been more attempted IED attacks in recent months. None was successful.
The New Zealand troops killed some insurgents in the Saturday firefight, but it may never be known how many casualties there were.
FLAGS AT HALF-MAST FOR LANCE CORPORAL DURRER
Christchurch flags are flying at half-mast in honour of slain city soldier Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer.
The 26-year-old was one of two New Zealand soldiers killed in Bamiyan when their armoured vehicles were fired at on Saturday.
Durrer's Christchurch family had gathered to support one another through the shock of his death, a family member told The Press yesterday.
Durrer, who was based at Burnham Military Camp, joined the army in 2004 and was on his first deployment to Afghanistan.
The family member said Durrer's mother had died more than a decade ago, his father was "not around" and he had been raised by his aunt in Christchurch. His girlfriend lived in Palmerston North.
Durrer attended Phillipstown School, where principal Tony Simpson described him as a "shining star".
Staff members at the school had "fond memories" of him.
"He was a really helpful, friendly young lad and definitely had leadership potential," Simpson said.
Durrer had been a member of the kapa haka group, had a good school record and was also a "fast little rugby player".
One of his former teachers, Sunny West, said Durrer "always had a smile on his face".
"He was always involved and was never a problem."
She had recognised Durrer "straight away" from his photograph.
Simpson said the school was flying the New Zealand flag at half-mast in memory of its fallen pupil.
Durrer's name would be added to the school's roll of honour, which listed former pupils who had died in battle. The school would gather around the flag today to mark his death.
"We are hurting on behalf of his family," Simpson said.
Speaking through the Defence Force, Durrer's family said he had had a "rewarding career" with 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," the family's statement said.
"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 New Zealand Army."
The last time Rene Ribotton saw his former high school mate, Durrer was in a picture uploaded to Facebook in Afghanistan with a "big grin" on his face.
"I just saw a picture of him about a week ago," he said.
"He was standing next to a Unimog that had gone into a river or a ditch, and he was standing there with a big grin. He looked like he was having a great time."
Ribotton was shocked to hear Durrer was one of the two New Zealanders killed in Afghanistan.
"I don't know what to say. It's pretty weird to hear that. It's horrible. I can't really believe it," he said.
Ribotton said he remembered Durrer as a "genuine good guy".
Some of Durrer's Facebook friends had yesterday changed their profile picture to a soldier standing over a cross, and one had a field full of poppies in tribute to the 26-year-old.
Linwood College also lowered the New Zealand flag to half-mast in honour of Durrer, who was a pupil there from 2000 to 2001. He then went on to Hagley Community College.
Linwood College principal Margaret Paiti said Durrer was remembered as an "enjoyable, pleasant student" who involved himself in the school community.
"It's tragic what's occurred. He paid the ultimate sacrifice in fighting for the freedom we enjoy," she said.
"It's a very strong message that we'll be sending to our students to recognise the sacrifice that he did make. He's a hero."
Paiti said the college would hold an assembly today to acknowledge Durrer's heroism.
LANCE CORPORAL MALONE 'DOING AN IMPORTANT JOB'
Friends of Lance Corporal Rory Malone are not surprised he died a hero.
The 26-year-old New Zealand soldier was killed in Afghanistan saving his commander during an insurgent attack in Bamiyan province on Saturday night.
Corporal Malone was killed instantly. The commander was one of six injured.
Most of Corporal Malone's family are believed to be living overseas, apart from his brother, who is based in Auckland.
His family said they were extremely proud of him.
"'Rory went to Afghanistan to do what he considered an important job which contributed to the greater good of the region," a statement said.
"He did his job with honour and pride. Rory will be dearly missed by his family."
Corporal Malone leaves behind his partner, also in the New Zealand Army.
Friend Jamie Baker served in the army for three years with him and said it came as no surprise that Corporal Malone had put his life on the line for another person.
“He was a real funny, good guy and just really down to earth.
“I don't know anyone who would have a bad thing to say about him.”
Mr Baker, who is no longer in the army, was devastated to hear "such a good guy" had died in battle.
It was third time he had lost a friend in Afghanistan, and he said he feared it would not be the last.
“Every time you hear [of a death] you get the butterflies you might know them.”
Rory Malone grew up in Auckland, Katikati and the Coromandel. Teachers remembered as a quiet student who got on with his work.
He carried that ethos into the army in 2002.
After starting with the Army Reserve, he transferred to the regular force as a rifleman in 2005.
He was deployed to East Timor in 2006 and 2007 but it was his first rotation in Afghanistan.
Yesterday, friends left messages on a group Facebook page for Corporal Malone's battalion, wishing love and strength to his family.
“One love to our brothers who [paid] the ultimate price,” the main message read. “To our comrades that are hurt, take care grunt's see you's back in NZL.”
Notes below called the soldiers' deaths devastating and urged those still in Afghanistan to take care.
“Luv you Cuz, come home safe k … My heart goes out to your boys, their friends and whanau, very very sad,” wrote Paulette O'Brien.
“Chur my bro . . . to you and the boys Kia kaha. Onward,” wrote Nate Norton.
Mr Norton was among dozens who used the phrase “Onward” in urging the soldiers to stay safe.
Meanwhile, fellow soldiers changed their profile pictures to poppies, military badges or photos of them with Corporal Malone - at parties, in Timor and at their Burnham camp.
He was also fondly remembered by his former teachers.
Waihi College principal Alistair Cochrane said Corporal Malone attended the college from year 9 to 11 between 1999 and 2001.
He recognised Corporal Malone's face in a news bulletin and said the school was in shock at the news of his death. "We remember him as a nice young fellow; he was quiet and kept to himself," he said.
He had studied accounting, geography and home economics. Maths was his strong point.
"He was not a high-profile student. He was a quiet and unassuming young man, a pleasant student, he just got on with things."
Corporal Malone also attended Katikati College in 1998. Principal Neil Harray said teachers recalled a well-rounded, quiet student who was liked by all.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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