Three Kiwi soldiers killed in bomb attack
GLEN SCANLON AND PALOMA MIGONE
The Taleban has claimed responsibility for the bomb attack that killed three New Zealand soldiers only two weeks after the deaths of Lance Corporals Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer in a firefight.
The Defence Force said that at approximately 9.20am (Afghanistan time) yesterday, the last vehicle in a convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device, North West of Do Abe, Bamiyan, on the road to Romero.
The remaining personnel in the patrol secured the location and awaited more support. Malone and Pralli Durrer died in the same area.
Taleban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.
The Defence Force has informed and was supporting the next of kin.
Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said: "We are deeply saddened by this loss, especially given the recent incident on 4 August. On behalf of the entire New Zealand Defence Force, I extend my deepest sympathies to the families, colleagues and friends of the personnel involved."
Prime Minister John Key also expressed his sorrow.
"On behalf of New Zealanders, I extend my deepest condolences to the families of the three deceased," said Key.
"This latest tragedy brings the total number of New Zealand soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan to 10.
"Today's events underscore the gravity of the situations New Zealand's soldiers face daily in Afghanistan. The three brave soldiers paid the ultimate price for their selfless work, and my thoughts are with their families and friends as they mourn their loved ones."
Defence Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman said the deaths would come as a deep shock to the nation.
"My immediate thoughts are with the families of these three NZDF soldiers who lost their lives, and the wider NZDF community. It comes as a significant blow after the other casualties our Defence Force suffered on August 4th," said Coleman.
"We are still receiving details from the scene and further information will be made available at a press conference later today."
There has been a string of attacks in Afghanistan this weekend, including the shooting of an international service member by a man in Afghan police uniform.
DEATHS PROMPTED EXTENDED ROLE
Cabinet approved New Zealand's Bamiyan-based Defence Force staff extending operations east into the hostile Baghlan province following the firefight which killed Malone and Durrer and injured six other Kiwi soldiers.
Durrer and Malone, both 26, were on their first deployment to Afghanistan as part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). The insurgents which killed them were from Baghlan province.
Baghlan is the responsibility of Hungarian forces, who are reluctant to patrol the area, however, Prime Minister John Key has ruled out seeking a change to the Hungarian's rules of engagement.
"It's a legitimate question but the position the Hungarians have taken has been the position ever since they have been there," he said in a recent interview following the decision to extend New Zealand operations into Baghlan.
"So I don't think us applying pressure either directly or indirectly to the Hungarians will really change much."
The reluctance of the Hungarians to patrol their area had led to an increase in insurgent activity in recent years, Key said.
"It's a very hostile environment and it's a dangerous and difficult environment there."
At the weekend, former Labour leader Phil Goff said more combat deaths in Afghanistan were futile.
"Sometimes you do things that involve sacrifice, but the sacrifice has to be worthwhile," Goff said.
"To me, further sacrifices aren't going to bring better outcomes for Afghanistan. I've been to every funeral for those killed in action and they are terribly sad and your heart goes out to the families. But can I look them in the eye and say your son died because it was critical for us to be in Afghanistan? I don't believe I can."
New Zealand's Afghanistan deployment over the past five years has cost $185 million, with $32m budgeted this year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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