4 Aug 2010

NZ soldier killed in Afghanistan

12:09 pm on 4 August 2010

A New Zealand soldier is dead after an attack during a patrol in Bamyan province, Afghanistan.

It's New Zealand's first combat death in that country.

Two other New Zealand personnel and an interpreter were seriously wounded.

Defence says next of kin are being notified. Their names have not yet been released.

Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae says the men were on routine patrol when their convoy of three vehicles was attacked from two directions at about 12.30am on Wednesday (NZT).

An improvised explosive device and rocket propelled grenades were used.

The New Zealand forces returned fire.

Lt. General Mateparae says communications with the north-east and the patrol are still intermittent, but the wounded men are being evacuated.

In a statement, Prime Minister John Key said:

"This is New Zealand's first combat loss in Afghanistan and reinforces the danger faced daily by our forces as they work tirelessly to restore stability to the Province.

"This soldier's contribution and that of all New Zealand Defence Force personnel should never be underestimated.

"It is with enormous sadness that I acknowledge that this soldier has paid a high price and my thoughts are with his family and the families of the injured."

Mr Key says he has spoken with the mother of the dead soldier, to express his condolences.

While she is obviously upset, he says she wanted him to pass on her best wishes to the families of the wounded soldiers.

Earlier, Mr Key said the death won't affect the Defence Force's commitment to Bamyan province.

He said New Zealand troops would stay in Afghanistan.

Condolences offered

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp has also extended his condolences to the families of those involved.

The two wounded soldiers may be taken to Germany for medical treatment.

Bad weather prevented air support being deployed and any medical evacuations. Dr Mapp says it took some time for the soldiers to be reached.

He told Nine to Noon the pair have serious injuries, but they are not life threatening.

The soldiers will require treatment outside Afghanistan and they may be sent to Germany, where more serious injuries are treated.

Dr Mapp says the attack lasted up to 20 minutes.

New Zealand took over command of the provincial reconstruction team in Bamyan (about 200km north west of Kabul) in September 2003.

The current rotation of Defence personnel is the 16th rotation of New Zealand forces.

About 140 New Zealanders are stationed at Kiwi Base located outside the township of Bamyan.


Former Chief of Army General Staff, retired Major-General Lou Gardiner, says he is not surprised the attack came from the north east part of Bamyan.

He said on Morning Report that Bamyan is considered relatively safe, but the area where the soldier was killed has been of concern in the past few years.

Major General Gardiner described the attack on the New Zealand patrol as well planned and "pretty much an ambush".

There have been 1984 combat deaths among the coalition forces in Afghanistan: including 1216 from the United States, 327 from Britain, 151 from Canada and 17 from Australia.

In July 2000, a New Zealand patrol in Timor was ambushed while tracking a militia group. Private Leonard Manning, 24, was killed.

Defence says that was New Zealand's first combat casualty since the Vietnam War.

Returned & Services Associations around the country are lowering their flags to half-mast on Wednesday. They will do so again on the day of his funeral.