Five Australian Soldiers Killed In Afghanistan

Three Australian soldiers have been killed by a rogue Afghan soldier in Afghanistan and two members of the SAS have died in a Black Hawk helicopter crash.

Details of the incidents have been announced by the Acting Chief of the ADF, Air Marshal Mark Binskin. The Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, has described this as “the darkest of days for Australia”.

Mark Binskin

The “green-on-blue” incident occurred at a base in southern Oruzgan province yesterday. Two other soldiers were injured in the attack.

The helicopter crash occurred during an “insertion” in Helmand province. The aircraft rolled over on landing.

  • Listen to Air Marshal Binskin (16m)

About 1500 Australian Defence Force troops are in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. The casualties announced today bring Australia’s death toll to 38. Seven soldiers have now been killed in green-on-blue incidents.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that she has “made the judgement call” to come home early from the Pacific Islands forum in the Cook Islands. She said this is the nation’s worst day in Afghanistan and the worst loss of life since Vietnam.

Julia Gillard

Gillard insisted that the commitment in Afghanistan has a purpose and that “progress is being made”. She said: “We cannot allow even the most grievous of circumstances to alter our strategy… We went there for a purpose and we will see that purpose through.”

  • Listen to Prime Minister Gillard (11m)

Statement released by Department of Defence.

Three Australian soldiers killed, two wounded in insider attack

Three Australian soldiers have been killed and two wounded following an insider attack at Patrol Base Wahab in the Baluchi Valley region of Uruzgan.

The attack occurred during the evening of 29 August, 2012 (Afghan time) inside the confines of the Patrol Base.

Acting Chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin said early reports indicate a lone individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform fired a weapon into a group of Australian soldiers from close range before fleeing the Patrol Base on foot.

“Five soldiers were hit in the burst of automatic fire,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

“Their comrades made every effort to revive the three soldiers, but their wounds were fatal.”

One of the five soldiers was seriously wounded in the attack while another sustained minor wounds as a result of the shooting.

Air Marshal Binskin extended his condolences to the families and friends of the soldiers on behalf of the Minister for Defence, the Chief of the Defence Force, the Chief of Army and the Defence community.

“I cannot begin to describe the overwhelming grief that their families are experiencing but I want them to know that Army and the ADF community share their anguish and we will continue to support them and care for them,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

“This is a terrible day for all and our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected by this incident.”

All five soldiers were members of the 3 RAR Task Group tasked with mentoring the 4th Brigade, 205 Corps in Uruzgan. All five soldiers were normally based at Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera in Queensland.

Defence has notified the families of the soldiers and Defence personnel continue to provide support to them during this difficult period.

“At this time we are focused on supporting the soldiers’ families and their comrades and ensuring the wounded soldiers receive the best possible medical treatment.”

Of the three soldiers killed, one was a 40 year old Lance Corporal posted to the 2/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry). He was on his second tour to Afghanistan and had previously deployed to Iraq.

The second soldier was a 23 year old Private posted to the 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment and the third soldier was a 21 year old Sapper posted to the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment. Both were on their first operational deployment.

A security operation to apprehend the perpetrator is now underway.

Air Marshal Binskin said the motive for the attack in unknown at this time.

“A team from the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service is moving to the site and an ISAF investigatory team is also reviewing the incident,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

“At this stage the focus of our efforts is on providing support to the families, friends and comrades of those affected by the shooting and doing everything we can to apprehend the perpetrator.

“Our primary concern in Afghanistan is the safety and security of our Australian Defence Force members.”

ADF personnel in Uruzgan were already operating at a level of force protection beyond ISAF requirements.

As a result of this incident all Australian personnel, in cooperation with Afghan Commanders, have adopted enhanced force protection measures including additional security while an initial investigation into the shooting is underway.

This incident is not related to the helicopter crash in Helmand province in which two Australian Commandos were killed when an ISAF helicopter crashed during a partnered mission.

Text of statement from the Department of Defence.

Two Australian Commandos killed in Helmand helicopter crash

Two Australian Special Forces soldiers from 2nd Commando Regiment were killed when an ISAF helicopter crashed in Helmand earlier today, 30 August.

The Australian Special Forces and their partnered Afghan National Security Force unit were participating in a targeted mission at the time of the incident.

Acting Chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin said the soldiers were en route to the mission area when their aircraft impacted the ground.

“Early reporting indicates the aircraft was attempting to land in the mission area when the incident occurred,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

Air Marshal Binskin extended his condolences to the families and friends of the soldiers on behalf of the Minister for Defence, the Chief of the Defence Force, the Chief of Army and the Defence community.

“I cannot begin to describe the overwhelming grief that their families are experiencing but I want them to know that Army and the ADF community share their anguish and we will continue to support them and care for them,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

“This is a terrible day for all and our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected by this incident.”

The cause of the crash is not yet known, but specialist aircraft recovery personnel are on the site to ensure information required for an air crash investigation is appropriately recorded.

Initial reporting indicates there was no insurgent action in the area at the time of the incident which could be related to the crash.

The Special Operations Task Group mission was not in support of security operations to apprehend the perpetrator of the Patrol Base Wahab shooting overnight in which three Australian soldiers were killed and two wounded.

Text of statement from the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce.

THE DARKEST OF DAYS FOR AUSTRALIA

Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Governor-General Quentin Bryce said the loss of five Australian soldiers in Afghanistan in the last 24 hours, and the injuries sustained by their mates, signified one of our darkest days.

Ms Bryce expressed her sincere condolences on behalf of all Australians to the families and loved ones devastated by the horrific news.

“I know that Australians everywhere, will pause to think of the families left behind, and the colleagues who will feel this tragic loss deeply”.

“I have spent time with our troops in Afghanistan on three occasions and I am proud of their professionalism, comradeship and strong commitment to duty”, Ms Bryce said.

“They operate in one of the most hostile physical environments on earth, and they understand the enormous risks they face in the line of duty”, Ms Bryce said.

“Their courage is beyond question, and I want to honour and pay tribute to all that our defence men and women do for our country each and every day.”

“These terrible losses will only steel the resolve of those who continue this important work”.

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