Two New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghan attack

WELLINGTON: Two New Zealand soldiers have been killed and six wounded in a battle in Afghanistan’s central province of Bamiyan, Prime Minister John Key said Sunday. The deaths bring to seven the total number of New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghanistan since deployment to the war-torn country. The soldiers were killed in an attack on Saturday when they went to the aid of local security forces who encountered suspected insurgents near a village in the northeast of Bamiyan. Two local security personnel were also killed in the attack while six New Zealand soldiers, 10 local security personnel and a civilian were injured. “It is with enormous sadness that I acknowledge that these soldiers have paid the highest price,” Key said. “My thoughts are with the family and friends of the two brave soldiers killed and also with the families and friends of those injured. “This brings the total number of New Zealand soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan to seven. It reinforces the danger faced daily by our forces as they work tirelessly to restore stability to the province.” The New Zealand Defence Force said the soldiers were members of the NZ Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) which has been based in Bamiyan for the past nine years. “We are deeply saddened by this loss and, on behalf of the entire New Zealand Defence Force, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family, colleagues and friends of the personnel involved,” defence chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said. The incident occurred around 0700 GMT Saturday. The New Zealand government said in May that the 145 troops in Bamiyan would be withdrawn in late 2013, a year ahead of schedule, after paving the way for an early handover to local authorities. Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the early departure “reflects the outstanding work that New Zealand PRT personnel have done to prepare the province for transition to local control”. He said New Zealand would maintain a development role in Bamiyan province, where the PRT has been deployed since 2003, providing support for army officer training in Afghanistan. A New Zealand deployment of about 40 elite Special Air Services troops based in Kabul ended its mission in March this year.

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