28 Oct 2013

NZ soldier injured in Afghanistan

6:19 am on 28 October 2013

A New Zealand soldier injured in an "insider attack" in Afghanistan was hit by shrapnel which bounced off another soldier's body armour, the New Zealand Defence Force says.

An Afghan National Security Force soldier opened fire as New Zealand and Australian servicemen were meeting trainee Afghan officers in the Qargha region, west of Kabul, on Saturday.

The New Zealander is a sergeant at the officer training academy in Kabul.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said the New Zealander was with two Australian colleagues when the Afghan soldier started shooting.

Lieutenant General Jones said the bullet disintegrated as it made contact with the body armour of an Australian soldier, and some of the shrapnel hit his arm, while other fragments hit the New Zealander in the foot.

He said the Afghan soldier was critically injured when one of the Australians returned fire, but the soldiers left the area before they were able to find out if he had been killed.

The New Zealander was treated at the scene and then taken to Craig Hospital at Bagram Air Force Base, where he received further medical treatment. The Defence Force says the soldier's injuries are not life threatening, he was in good spirits and has been in contact with family in New Zealand.

AAP reports the the Australian serviceman suffered minor fragmentation wounds and was expected to return to duty shortly.

Acting Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, says others could have been hit if not for the quick response of Australian soldiers at the meeting.

"It is impossible to completely remove the threat of insider attacks, but the actions of the ADF Force Protection soldiers demonstrate that our training and force protection techniques are appropriate and prepared to respond, when incidents such as this occur," he said.

Personnel from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force are helping train those attending the Afghan National Army Officer Academy.

It is the fourth such attack in a month, the BBC reoports. Last year, attacks by Afghan servicemen on their NATO colleagues accounted for around 15% of all international troop casualties.

Not an isolated incident

Labour Party defence spokesperson Phil Goff said the incident was unfortunately not an isolated one.

"We've now seen many instances of troops, often from the United States and the United Kingdom, who have been involved in training of this sort, who have found that the people they are training have turned their guns on them."

Mr Goff said no matter how stringent the security screening for new cadets, Taliban supporters will always slip through.

About 20 New Zealanders remain in Kabul and the Defence Force said all have been accounted for and were safe.