Monday, October 22, 2012

Australian SOTG soldier killed in Afghanistan

UPDATE: A 24-year-old Australian special forces soldier has been killed by an insurgent improvised explosive device (IED) during an operation in southern Afghanistan.

He is the 39th Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan since 2001 and the seventh so far this year.

Defence force chief General David Hurley said the soldier was a member of the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) participating in a disruption operation against an insurgent network on the border area of Oruzgan province overnight, Australian time.

"The soldier was clearing the compound when an IED detonated, killing him instantly," he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

No other Australian or Afghan soldiers were killed or injured.

The SOTG comprises members of the Special Air Service Regiment, Commando Regiments and Special Operations Engineer Regiment.

General Hurley said the mission was continuing and no further specific details of the circumstances could be provided without endangering his comrades.

The soldier's family has been notified and has requested that no personal details be released at this stage.

General Hurley said the soldier was highly qualified with operational experience.

"His commanding officer described him as an exceptional soldier who will be remembered as genuine, honest and dedicated," he said.

"His loss will be deeply felt by those who knew him."

Defence Minister Stephen Smith expressed his condolences to the soldier's family and friends.

"It is one of the terrible and tragic hazards and risks and consequence of our engagement in Afghanistan," he told reporters in Sydney.

Mr Smith said the government continued to believe that completing the mission in Afghanistan remained in the national interest.

Transition to Afghan security control remained on track and there was an expectation by the end of 2012 all four infantry kandaks (battalions) mentored by Australian forces would be capable of independent operations.

"We believe we are on track to transition to Afghan-led security responsibility overall in Oruzgan province over the next 12-15 months," Mr Smith said.

October 22nd, 2012

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