Key shown Afghanistan bombing aftermath

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 05:00 28/08/2012

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Satellite pictures showed the explosion that killed three New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan last week was "a very large bomb", Prime Minister John Key says.

The roadside bomb hit the final Humvee in a convoy northwest of the New Zealand base at Do Abe killing Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris.

"I've seen the satellite pictures of the explosion [aftermath]. It was clearly a very large bomb," Mr Key said yesterday.

It brought the New Zealand death toll in Afghanistan to five this month and to 10 in the past two years.

Mr Key said the Cabinet had not revoked approval for troops to cross from Bamiyan into neighbouring Baghlan province, where the Taleban insurgents responsible for the attacks are thought to be based.

Mr Key repeated it was "highly likely" the 150-strong provincial reconstruction team would pull out in April.

Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at the weekend that more Kiwi soldiers would die if they were not withdrawn now.

"New Zealand has made itself a target of our attacks," he said. "If you don't get out of our country, many more of your soldiers will be killed."

Mr Key said there was "a degree of propaganda" about the warning. But Afghanistan was a war zone and the northeast of Bamiyan was dangerous.

"You can rest assured the military and the chief of defence force are doing everything they possibly can within the context of that environment to try and make sure our people are as safe as possible."

Comments by film-maker Barbara Sumner Burstyn critical of Lance Corporal Baker, for which she had since apologised, were an "unfortunate" attack on a fine soldier.

He did not condone the reaction, which had included death threats against Sumner Burstyn.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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