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Second New Zealand special forces soldier killed in Afghanistan

09-28-2011 13:40 BJT

WELLINGTON, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- A second New Zealand special forces soldier has been killed in a military operation in Afghanistan, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced Wednesday.

The soldier with the Special Air Service Group (SAS) was shot while the SAS were mentoring the Afghan Crisis Response Unit during an operation in Wardak Province near Kabul, said Key.

"I am saddened by the loss of this SAS soldier, the second from the unit to die in Afghanistan. It is a reminder of the volatile and dangerous conditions that our Defence Force personnel face in Afghanistan," said Key.

Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, at a press conference with Key later Wednesday, said the soldier was evacuated by helicopter to a base where the top military neurosurgeon in Afghanistan and his team were operating.

"Unfortunately he died on the operating table," Jones said.

The SAS were reacting to information about a team preparing to launch an attack on Kabul.

A child and a "fighting-aged" male were also injured in the operation, which had involved 15 SAS and 50 Afghan soldiers.

"It was a warranted operation from the Ministry of the Interior, the police organization of Afghanistan, with an arrest and a search warrant to deter and disrupt this team," Jones said.

The soldiers were dealing with insurgents who were "IED ( improvised explosive device) facilitators" planning an attack in Kabul.

"As the cordon was being put in place to isolate that area so that the arrest and search could be conducted, it was detected and the people in that compound opened fire with rifle fire and there were also some explosions. The exact origin has not been confirmed yet.

"Our soldier was killed in that exchange of rifle fire in the early part of the contact," said Jones.

Last month SAS soldier Doug Grant, 41, was killed after he was wounded in an attack by the Taliban at the British Council diplomatic offices in Kabul.

New Zealand also has a peacekeeping unit, the Provincial Reconstruction Team, based in Bamiyan,which has been there since 2003 and is to pull out in 2014.

An officer with the team, Lieutenant Timothy Andrew O'Donnell, 28, was killed in August last year.

Key defended the SAS deployment in Afghanistan after its first death there, saying he had no intention to change their March 2012 withdrawal date.

The SAS was first deployed in Afghanistan in 2001, but pulled out in 2005 after three deployments.

About 70 troops were sent back for a fourth deployment in 2009.

In July, a New Zealand Herald-DigiPoll survey found 63.3 percent of respondents wanted the SAS forces out of Afghanistan, while 23.1 percent thought they should remain beyond March next year, and the rest said they did not know.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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