28 Sep 2011

SAS soldier killed in Afghanistan

8:54 pm on 28 September 2011

An SAS soldier in Afghanistan has been shot in the head and killed during an operation to prevent an attack.

The fighting in Wardak province -which lasted some hours - started as Afghan police from the Crisis Response Unit and their SAS trainers were setting up a cordon around a compound, ahead of carrying out a search and arrest warrant.

Fifteen SAS soldiers and 50 Afghan policemen were on the scene and the New Zealander was killed early in the attack.

The Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, told a news conference the soldier was evacuated by helicopter to be treated by the top military neurosurgeon in Afghanistan and his team, but died on the operating table.

His name will be released on Thursday, as will further details of the incident.

It is the second New Zealand SAS soldier has been killed in Afghanistan. On 19 August, Corporal Doug Grant, 41, a member of the Special Air Service team, was shot trying to rescue people from a British Council building during a Taliban attack in Kabul.

Prime Minister John Key and Defence Minister Wayne Mapp made the announcement of the soldier's death at Parliament early Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Key said he had been informed of the death earlier in the day.

"On behalf of the Government I want to offer my sincerest condolences to his family and to the entire Defence Force," he said.

"The SAS is our premier combat unit and its soldiers face very volatile and dangerous conditions in order to help the people of Afghanistan."

He added that the New Zealand soldiers are brave, resourceful and resilient so news that one has fallen is devastating for the SAS, the defence force and all New Zealanders.

"He paid the highest price for his service for this country and we will mourn his death."

Mr Key says the Government still intends to keep the SAS in Afghanistan until March.

Mr Mapp says the last few months has seen an increase in insurgency in and around Kabul.

He says that on every occasion SAS soldiers deploy with the Afghan police Crisis Response Unit there is a risk of New Zealand casualties -

"Whether they are in the cordon or supporting the assault, they are within range of insurgent attack."