24 Jun 2009

NZ peacekeepers fired at in Afghanistan

6:59 pm on 24 June 2009

A New Zealand peacekeeping patrol has come under fire for the first time in Afghanistan after assisting national police to investigate recent bomb attacks.

The attack on the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team took place in the town of Do Abe in Bamyan province.

Members of the New Zealand team exchanged fire with insurgents during a 15-minute battle about 8pm local time on Tuesday. No one was injured.

Defence Force Air Vice-Marshall Pete Stockwell confirmed on Wednesday the battle was the first involving the peacekeeping team, who were helping police investigate two recent bomb attacks.

He says an estimated six to eight unidentified insurgents were involved, using rocket-fired grenades and small arms.

The attack only ended when the New Zealand soldiers called for air support. Two aircraft flew over the insurgents, and they subsequently withdrew.

Air Vice-Marshall Stockwell says although the incident was the first involving a peacekeeping team, it does not mean the troops will be withdrawn. That is a decision for the Government to make, he says.

"This is the sort of thing that can happen any time. We're well prepared for it - we've got good equipment and we have the tactics to deal with it. So while it's an event that is reasonably significant for us, it's not unexpected."