Prime Minister John Key says the deaths of two New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan is a great tragedy for this country.
The pair, who were working in the Provincial Reconstruction Team, died after a battle in Bamiyan province, in which six other Kiwis soldiers were wounded.
Speaking to media at the Defence Force base at Whenuapai, Key said it was with great sadness he learnt of the deaths.
"It's a day of great tragedy where we lose two of our soldiers and obviously they join the other five before them," he said.
"For New Zealand, a small country, losing seven of our men is an enormous price to pay."
Key said the soldiers were killed at about 7pm last night. Three of the injured men were in a serious condition and were likely to come back to New Zealand.
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said the troops had been called in to help local forces after an attempted arrest of an insurgent near Do Abe went wrong.
The local troops were ambushed while travelling and were killed on the side of the road.
The insurgents moved into a building, and the New Zealanders were asked to help to fire on that building and secure the area.
As they were moving to secure the high ground, they were attacked. The deaths and injuries came after three minutes of fire, Jones said.
Jones said the Kiwis requested air support.
One of the soldiers was in an armoured vehicle when he was hit by a rocket and killed. The other was hit by a blast from a rifle or a machine gun, Jones said.
One died immediately and the other died in a helicopter while being taken out of the area.
Seventeen insurgents were spotted moving away, carrying their own dead and wounded. It was not known how many insurgents or civilians were killed.
The defence force would do a battle debrief to find what went wrong.
The deaths bring the total number of New Zealanders who have died in Afghanistan to seven.
The contingent now in Afghanistan was drawn from the 2nd First Battalion, based at Burnham army base, near Christchurch.
They left in early April and are the 20th rotation of troops to serve as the reconstruction team in Bamiyan.
"It is a reminder of the dangers our soldiers face in Afghanistan," Key said.
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman also offered his condolences to the families of the two dead soldiers.
"We've lost two brave young men. this is going to be felt very heavily among the NZDF."
"Today is a day that certainly weighs heavily upon us."
Labour leader David Shearer said his heart and prayers were with the families of the deceased and those injured during the incident.
However, New Zealanders should be proud of the work our troops were doing in Afghanistan.
Bamiyan was one of the best provinces thanks to the work New Zealand had done with defence troops, local authorities and development specialists, he said.
"I think we should keep that in mind because I think New Zealand can be proud of what we've been able to achieve."
Shearer, who worked in Afghanistan during his former career as a humanitarian worker, said the province was "as good as it gets".
"Unfortunately, Afghanistan generally is a very violent place and there is always the threat of danger and tragically that's what's happened today.
"Anywhere in Afghanistan there are these underlying tensions, there are groups that want to destabilise and undermine the efforts that we have made."
The area of Bamiyan where the incident occurred was "more troublesome" than other parts of the province.
But going into such areas was part of the job of New Zealand soldiers working there, he said.
The deceased soldiers were there serving New Zealand and doing a great job, Shearer said.
Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae, a former Defence Force chief, said the two paid the ultimate sacrifice.
They and the injured were part of a team that had worked tirelessly and consistently to bring about peace and stability in the Bamiyan province, he said.
"Their presence in Afghanistan exemplified their dedication to New Zealand and the New Zealand Defence Force's mission in that country."
Serving in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan carried significant risk, Sir Jerry said.
He expressed his, and wife Janine's, condolences to the families and mates of the deceased soldiers.
The Defence Force is withholding the names of the dead soldiers for 24 hours saying it wants to give to next of kin time to grieve.
The two dead soldiers were both male.
NZ military deaths in Afghanistan
August 5: Two provincial reconstruction team soldiers killed in firefight in north eastern Bamiyan province.
April 2012: Corporal Douglas Hughes killed in incident at Romero base in Bamiyan.
September 2011: SAS Lance Corporal Leon Smith killed during operation in Wardak province.
August 2011: SAS Corporal Doug Grant, 41, killed during Taleban attack in Kabul.
February 2011: Private Kirifi Mila killed in Humvee accident, Bamiyan.
August 2010: Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell killed when his convoy was ambushed in Bamiyan.
- © Fairfax NZ News
- © Fairfax NZ News
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