18 Dec 2006

Australian navy group returns to base after standing-by near Fiji

11:18 am on 18 December 2006

An Australian navy task group dispatched to the South Pacific as political tensions increased in Fiji, has returned to base.

The mission, launched at the start of last month, was marred by the loss of a Black Hawk helicopter and two soldiers.

The amphibious support ship HMAS Kanimbla docked in Townsville over the weekend to offload its force of helicopters, SASR troops, an evacuee handling team and medical staff.

The AAP newsagency says two other ships in the task group, the frigate HMAS Newcastle and the supply ship HMAS Success were returning to Sydney.

The task group was dispatched on November 2 to stand-by off Fiji, ready to evacuate up to 7,000 Australian and other nationals in the event of a coup by the Fijian military.