SAS in Afghanistan firefight

Last updated 16:17 01/03/2010

SAS soldiers caught in gun battle

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New Zealand's elite SAS soldiers were involved in a firefight with Afghan insurgents who blew themselves up in an incident late last week, which left at least 16 people dead.

Prime Minister John Key has just announced limited details of the attack, in which fire was exchanged between up to 15 Special Air Service soldiers and Afghan insurgents.

It happened in Kabul on Friday last week, Mr Key said.

None of the about SAS personnel involved was injured in the incident, which was in an area of residential hotels in Kabul rented by Indian Embassy workers and other foreigners.

The violence followed attacks on India's Embassy in Afghanistan in July 2008 and October 2009.

Among the dead were six Indians and two other civilians, as well as the insurgents, who "blew themselves up" before they could be apprehended, Mr Key said.

Up to 15 SAS personnel accompanied an Afghan unit responding to the incident where a car bomb had been exploded and then a building occupied by insurgents.

During the incident, some members of the SAS were fired upon by insurgents and the Kiwis returned fire.

"Before the insurgents could be apprehended by Afghan security forces, they blew themselves up," Mr Key said.

"That is all of the information that we are able to release on the incident at this time," he told reporters at his post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon.

Mr Key last month promised a more open approach to giving details about Kiwi operations in Afghanistan.

The move came amidst controversy following the publication of photographs identifying Victoria Cross recipient Corporal Willie Apiata in military uniform after an engagement.

- with NZPA

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