A New Zealand SAS soldier on a search and arrest operation in Kabul has been killed.

Prime Minister John Key says the soldier’s name will not be released for 24 hours, when another press conference is scheduled.

Fifteen members of the SAS were conducting a joint operation with their Afghan counterparts when the man was killed during an exchange of gunfire.

Announcing the loss at a news conference, Key said the SAS “carry out their duties to the highest standards…they are brave, resourceful and resilient.”

This soldier, said the Prime Minister, “paid the highest price for his service to this country”.

Despite the second killing in recent weeks, it is the government’s intention to keep the SAS in Afghanistan until the end of their current tour of duty.

“There has been an increased tempo of the insurgency in and around Kabul,” Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said. “They are our elite and they serve with great bravery and courage”.

There have been fears that the New Zealand SAS and general troops are being targetted by the Taliban, possibly as a result of recent publicity by Metro Magazine and latterly Nicky Hager’s new book. New Zealand media were also criticised for posting operational pictures of Corporal Willie Apiata on duty in Kabul (the Government has confirmed Apiata was not involved in this operation). However, Defence Minister Mapp told reporters the SAS role in mentoring Afghan units puts them on the front lines of danger.

PM expresses condolences after loss of SAS soldier

Prime Minister John Key today expressed the Government’s sadness at the death of a New Zealand Special Air Service soldier in Afghanistan.

“I was informed earlier today that the soldier was shot while the SAS were mentoring the Afghan Crisis Response Unit during an operation in the Wardak Province of Afghanistan near Kabul,” says Mr Key.

“On behalf of the New Zealand Government, I want to offer my sincerest condolences to the soldier’s family, and the Defence Force community.

“I am saddened by the loss of this SAS soldier, the second from the unit to die in Afghanistan. It is a reminder of the volatile and dangerous conditions that our Defence Force personnel face in Afghanistan while serving their country,” says Mr Key.

“This soldier has paid the highest price for his service to this country, and we mourn his loss with heavy hearts.”