21 Aug 2012

Three more NZ soldiers killed in Afghanistan

4:35 am on 21 August 2012

Another three New Zealand soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan during an attack in Bamyan province.

The Defence Force says Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris were killed instantly about 9.20am on Sunday after their Humvee in a four-vehicle convoy was hit by a blast caused by an improvised explosive device (IED).

The trio were from the 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, based at Burnham Military Camp, and were part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan.

Photo: DEFENCE FORCE

The soldiers were seeking medical help for a comrade at the time of the attack, northwest of Do Abe on the road to Romero, and had been in Afghanistan since April this year.

The Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, told Checkpoint on Monday the trio would not have been saved if they had been in a light armoured vehicle (LAV), due to the size of the explosion.

"The IED bomb clearly was designed to destroy an armoured vehicle. It was well over 20 kilograms worth of explosives - it totally disintegrated the vehicle.

"It would've totally destroyed a light armoured vehicle and even a medium or heavy armoured vehicle - so there was nothing we could have done to put our guys into anything better."

General Jones says the bomb would have destroyed an ambush-resistant vehicle of the type used by NATO forces in other parts of Afghanistan where attacks occur on a daily basis.

Prime Minister John Key says the latest deaths underscore the gravity of situations New Zealand soldiers face in Afghanistan daily. He says the soldiers paid the ultimate price for their selfless work and extends his deepest condolences to their families.

Corporal Tamatea, 31, was previously sent to Afghanistan in 2007. He served in Timor-Leste in 2001, the Solomon Islands in 2003 and in Sumatra after the tsunami in 2005. He joined the New Zealand Army in February 2000.

Lance Corporal Baker, 26, joined the Army as a medic in April 2007. She received a Chief of Army Commendation in 2011 for professionalism and courage during Exercise Southern Warrior in June 2008 and was promoted to Lance Corporal in July that year. She was also deployed to Solomon Islands in 2010.

Private Harris joined the Army in February 2009. He was previously deployed in Timor-Leste in 2009-10.

The Defence Force says the bodies will be returned to the families as quickly as possible.

Afghan death toll at 10

Ten New Zealand soldiers have now lost their lives while serving in Afghanistan.

New Zealand forces have been deployed since 2003 and there are currently 149 Defence Force personnel in Bamyan province.

On 4 August, Lance Corporals Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer, both 26, were killed in Bamyan by insurgents in an ambush, while in April this year Corporal Douglas Hughes died in hospital following an undisclosed non-combat incident in the province.

In August 2011, SAS member Corporal Douglas Grant was killed in August in Kabul, while fellow member Lance Corporal Leon Smith died during a raid in Kabul in September.

Private Kirifi Mila died in February last year after a Humvee rolled down a cliff in north-east Bamyan, while in 2010 Lieutenant Timothy O'Donnell was killed after his convoy was ambushed in the province.