John Key confident Kiwi troops in Taji are safe

Kiwi troops are based at Camp Taji in Iraq. Photo / Mike Scott
Kiwi troops are based at Camp Taji in Iraq. Photo / Mike Scott

Prime Minister John Key says he remains confident New Zealand troops based at Taji are as safe as they can be despite a car bomb outside the military compound yesterday.

An explosion within two to three kilometres of Camp Taji in northern Baghdad where 106 NZ Defence Force personnel are currently deployed resulted in a number of casualties, but all New Zealanders are safe.

Mr Key said he did not believe the troops would be surprised that the compound was targeted because it was a highly dangerous environment. However his visit to Taji last year had reassured him the compound was as safe as possible and there was adequate force protection for the troops.

He did not believe there was a need to review security. "It reaffirms we've made the right call that they should remain within the confines of the Taji Base, but I don't think outside it really alters anything." He said there had been incidents nearby in the past.

"It's one of the reasons the New Zealand government was right to set the mandate we did which said our soldiers can't go outside the confines of the Taji Air Base. I'd be very uncomfortable if they ever did because we just know it's dangerous."

He did not believe it meant the area was getting more dangerous because the area between Taji and Baghdad was already highly dangerous. New Zealanders are only allowed to fly in and out of Taji rather than go by vehicle.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed reports of the explosion last night.

"Open source reporting suggests the blast resulted in a number of casualties, however all New Zealand personnel at Taji are safe," Mr Brownlee said.

"Reports from Taji are that at 5.58pm New Zealand time a car bomb was detonated close to a checkpoint outside the south-western secure perimeter of the camp.

"It is estimated the blast occurred between two and three kilometres from where New Zealand and Australian troops are accommodated," he said.

"Appropriate security measures are in place at Taji to protect our soldiers from a range of risks, and these are constantly reviewed and updated to reflect the threat environment.

"Our troops know they are in a volatile place, but they are inside a well-secured perimeter at Taji, and they take the steps necessary to ensure they can safely continue to train the Iraqi Security Forces to rid Iraq of D'aesh," Mr Brownlee said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State (Isis)

- NZ Herald

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