Afghanistan — Australian soldier killed in insurgent blast

An Aus­tralian sol­dier serv­ing with Men­tor­ing Task Force -2 (MTF-2) was killed in an Impro­vised Explo­sive Device strike yes­ter­day after­noon (02-Feb. Aus­tralia time).
A sec­ond sol­dier was seri­ous­ly wound­ed in the blast which occurred dur­ing the part­nered Afghan Nation­al Army and MTF-2 patrol as it moved through the Tan­gi Val­ley in the Deh Rawud region.

Act­ing Chief of the Defence Force Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al David Hur­ley said the death of the sol­dier would heav­i­ly impact on the pre­dom­i­nant­ly Dar­win-based unit.

“Imme­di­ate­ly after the blast Aus­tralian and Afghan sol­diers moved to secure the scene and do every­thing they could to help their mates,” Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Hur­ley said.

Weath­er con­di­tions in Uruz­gan at the time of the inci­dent were extreme­ly poor.

“Rain, low cloud and large dust storms sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduced vis­i­bil­i­ty. This cre­at­ed some ini­tial dif­fi­cul­ty launch­ing the aero med­ical heli­copter, but the US air crew per­se­vered in the dan­ger­ous con­di­tions to get the air­craft off the ground with­in a few min­utes.

“The aircrew’s actions meant the wound­ed Aus­tralians reached med­ical care with­in an hour” said Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Hur­ley.

The wound­ed sol­dier remains in a sat­is­fac­to­ry con­di­tion.

Cor­po­ral Richard Edward Atkin­son was 22 years old and from the Dar­win based 1st Com­bat Engi­neer Reg­i­ment (1CER). He is sur­vived by his fiancé, par­ents and broth­er.

This was Cor­po­ral Atkinson’s first deploy­ment to Afghanistan. He had pre­vi­ous­ly deployed with 1CER to Indone­sia on a human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance mis­sion, Oper­a­tion Padang Assist.

Defence is now focused on sup­port­ing the fam­i­lies of those involved in the inci­dent.

“In the past few weeks Aus­tralian sol­diers have been work­ing with their Afghan part­ners from a new patrol base (Patrol Base Qarib) in the Tan­gi Val­ley. They have suc­cess­ful­ly dis­cov­ered sev­er­al insur­gent caches, includ­ing large amounts of explo­sives.

“Despite these small but sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess­es, we must not for­get that our sol­diers are under­tak­ing a dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous mis­sion. Cor­po­ral Atkinson’s mates face some dif­fi­cult days ahead as they pre­pare to send him home to his fam­i­ly” Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Hur­ley said.

“I know they will con­tin­ue their mis­sion with courage and hon­our.”

Twen­ty-two sol­diers have been killed in Afghanistan since the ADF com­menced Oper­a­tion SLIPPER.

Four Aus­tralian sol­diers have been wound­ed in Afghanistan this year with 168 ADF per­son­nel wound­ed in action since 2002.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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