Two of New Zealand's elite soldiers have received rare bravery awards for their actions during a fatal firefight in Afghanistan.

The unnamed SAS soldiers were today awarded the New Zealand Gallantry Star, the second-highest honour for bravery in New Zealand.

They were among nine members of the 1NZSAS regiment to be honoured for bravery and gallantry while serving in Afghanistan.

The soldiers could not be named for security reasons.


The two recipients of the Gallantry Star were both injured during a five-hour battle with Taliban insurgents at Kabul's InterContinental Hotel in June 2011, which left ten civilians dead.

The first, known as Serviceman J, was recognised for exposing himself to enemy fire while providing medical support to a wounded comrade.

The second, Serviceman D, faced repeated heavy fire during the siege and sustained several wounds while protecting civilians.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said the performance of the two servicemen was "of the highest order and in keeping with the finest tradition of New Zealand's military record".

The New Zealand Gallantry Decoration was awarded to two SAS soldiers who showed "exceptional gallantry" under heavy fire at the hotel siege, one of them sustaining an injury.

The New Zealand Gallantry Medal was awarded to five other members of the regiment who displayed bravery at the hotel attack and at a separate incident at the British Council Office Compound in Kabul in September 2011. SAS soldier Corporal Doug Grant was killed at the attack on the British diplomatic offices.

Mr Brownlee said: "Our NZSAS personnel operate in dangerous and volatile situations and all of these men have demonstrated extreme courage in the face of a determined enemy."