Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Fifth NZ soldier dies in Afghanistan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The official inquiry into the death of a New Zealand soldier in Afghanistan yesterday is understood to be focusing on the possibility that he took his own life.

The soldier was serving in the Bamiyan Provincial Reconstruction Team. The Defence Force said last night that an incident had occurred at the forward patrol base Romero, which is several hours away from the PRT headquarters in Bamiyan town.

It would not divulge any details of the soldier's death, but it is understood that the official inquiry is treating it as a suspected suicide. The soldier was taken to hospital but died about 11am, New Zealand time.

"The death was not the result of combat action and does not appear to involve the actions of another party," said Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman.

He said the Government offered its condolences to the man's family. The soldier had been in Bamiyan since September last year.

The Defence Force will hold a press conference today. It is not known when the soldier's body will be returned to New Zealand.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said an investigation into the incident was under way.

"Our soldiers continue to acquit themselves magnificently and the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team continues to do great work in Bamiyan Province."

The PRT has been deployed in Bamiyan since August 2003, is about 140-strong, and is on its 19th rotation.

The soldier who died yesterday is the fifth member of the New Zealand Defence Force to be lost in Afghanistan.

Three of the other deaths were combat related and one an accident. Two New Zealanders died in Afghanistan last year, SAS members Corporal Doug Grant and Lance Corporal Leon Smith.

The SAS deployment officially came to an end at midnight on Saturday but they will take several weeks to all return home.

Three soldiers, New Zealand-born but serving in Australian and British services, have also been killed: Jack Howard, Mathew Hopkins and Sean McCarthy.

International forces in Afghanistan have agreed with the Afghanistan Government to hand over security to locals by July 2014.

The Bamiyan PRT is then expected to be a civilian development force.

TRAGIC ROLL CALL
* April 2012: PRT soldier dies in incident at Romero.
* September 2011: SAS Lance Corporal Leon Smith killed during operation in Wardak province.
* August 2011: SAS Corporal Doug Grant, 41, killed during Taleban attack in Kabul.
* February 2011: PRT Private Kirifi Mila killed in Humvee accident, Bamiyan.
* August 2010: PRT Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell killed in firefight after ambush in Bamiyan.

- NZ Herald

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