Kiwi soldiers killed in action

SAD DAY: Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones and Prime Minister John Key at Whenuapai Air Base.
SAD DAY: Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones and Prime Minister John Key at Whenuapai Air Base.

The two soldiers killed in Afghanistan have been named as Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Lance Corporal Rory Malone.

Aucklander Malone, 26, was killed instantly as he went to the aid of his company commander.

Durrer, 26, from Christchurch, died in a helicopter on the way to Bagram.

FALLEN: Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Lance Corporal Rory Malone.
FALLEN: Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Lance Corporal Rory Malone.

It was their first deployment to Afghanistan.

The two soldiers were killed by a "volley of fire" after the troops left their armoured vehicles to "engage" a group of 10 insurgents who attacked New Zealand's base at Do Abe as a "show of force". Shots were fired from 50 to 100 metres away.

Defence Force Chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said the men's bodies were at the United States Bagram air base near Kabul and would be brought home as soon as possible.

Second attack on troops

The Defence Force has today 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 Durrer and Malone were killed.

'Proud of all he accomplished'

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."

'Devastating time' for family

Malone's distraught family asked for privacy in a statement that declared they were "extremely proud" of his army service.

Malone joined the Territorial Force in November 2002 and then transferred to the Regular Force as a rifleman in September 2005.

He served with 2/1 RNZIR for most of his career, deploying to East Timor twice before his deployment to Afghanistan.

"Rory's family is extremely proud of his service to the NZ Army,'' the statement said.

''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.

"We extend our deepest sympathy to Rory's partner and the family of the other lost soldier, as well as those who were wounded in the incident.

"We ask for privacy during this devastating time to deal with our grief and loss.''

Wounded may come home

Jones said the names of the six wounded soldiers would not be released at this time.

He said one had been shot in the neck but had been evacuated to one of the best military hospitals in Germany.

All six could come home, Jones said. The dead and departing soldiers would be replaced. 

He said the New Zealand forces were not targeted but had run into forces trying to protect bomb makers.

Historically, he said, insurgents did not engage in firefights with New Zealand troops because the Kiwi contingent had bigger fire power.

The Defence Force did not yet know how many insurgents New Zealand troops had injured. Jones said it may never be known.

Taleban claims responsibility

The Taleban has reportedly claimed responsibility for the deaths of the two New Zealanders who were killed in Bamiyan when their armoured vehicles were fired at on Saturday night, New Zealand time. Another six New Zealanders were injured.

The troops were part of New Zealand's Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) based in the province.

They had been called in to help local forces after an attempted arrest of an insurgent near Do Abe went wrong.

The New Zealanders were trying to secure the area when they came under fire from a separate group of insurgents.

The Defence Force is phoning the families of all 143 members of the PRT. Key this morning said he would contact the two killed soldiers' families.

''They don't have a lot of family. Neither of them is married,'' he told Radio Live.

''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.

''Fortunately, no children were involved.''

Key said the insurgents who killed the two soldiers may have been testing local forces before New Zealand's withdrawal from Bamiyan province.

New Zealand was unlikely to withdraw the PRT earlier than late next year as planned, despite growing danger in Bamiyan, he 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, regroup 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, he said.

''There is greater firepower going in from the Taleban. They've got a new bomb maker, they are better resourced and they have moved people up from the southern provinces.''

He said it was believed the attack was by 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 respond 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.

Fairfax Media