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New Zealand troops back to business after fired on in Afghanistan

03 November, 2009

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KABUL: It will be business as usual for New Zealand Army patrols in Afghanistan, despite coming under fire from insurgents.

No New Zealand troops were injured in the gun battle, which happened about 11am Afghan time yesterday, (about 7.30pm NZT) and lasted about two hours.

The patrol, comprising Hiluxes and Hummers, was returning from the northeastern area of Bamyan province, when they came under fire from insurgents armed with small arms and rocket propelled grenades, said Captain Zac Prendergast of NZ Defence Force communications.

The New Zealand troops returned fire on more than one occasion and the whole incident probably lasted about two hours, he said.

"It wasn’t a shoot and scoot. They were able to take up positions and return fire."

Other New Zealand troops and two Nato coalition Apache helicopter gunships were able to support them returning fire. A Blackhawk helicopter was on standby in case anybody needed to be evacuated, he said.

Capt Prendergast would not say how many troops were in the patrol and did not yet know if the insurgents suffered any casualties.

They had not established who the insurgents were. There were other groups operating in the area and they would not necessarily be part of the Taliban, he said.

A couple of the patrols’ vehicles suffered minor damage but were able to make it back to base under their own steam.

They would return to patrol tomorrow, he said."It will be business as usual."

The New Zealand contingent needed to maintain their presence alongside the Afghan police, especially leading up to the election run-off, Capt Prendergast said.

"This is an area we have had a couple of contacts before. It’s an area we do know you need to tread carefully. Obviously there will be heightened awareness now."

In June a home made bomb exploded in front of a New Zealand patrol. No one was injured.


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