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Afghanistan: Australian soldier Luke Worsley is killed by Taliban.

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Friday 23 November 2007

Afghanistan: Australian soldier Luke Worsley is killed by Taliban


MARK COLVIN: An Australian commando has been killed in Afghanistan. He was Private Luke Worsley from Sydney. The 26-year-old soldier was from the 4RAR Commando unit based at Holsworthy. 


Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, says he was killed in a firefight during an attempt to take a Taliban position. 


The soldier is the third Australian killed in Afghanistan in the past two months. 


Karen Barlow was at Air Chief Marshal Houston's press conference at defence headquarters a short time ago. She joins me now. 


So what do we know about Private Luke Worsley? 


KAREN BARLOW: Mark, the Private was a greatly respected and dearly, is now a dearly missed soldier. He's been regarded as one of the nation's finest. It was his second tour of duty in Afghanistan and he'd also been to East Timor in 2003. He's regarded as a decorated soldier; he had won the Defence Medal, among others, and also the Australian Active Service Medal. 


MARK COLVIN: How old was he, and did have any family in terms of a wife and children?  


KAREN BARLOW: He was single. He has a family which have been informed of his death. He was 26 and that is what we know at this stage. They're not releasing too much detail about his personal life. 


MARK COLVIN: But when you say that he had a family, he has parents and brothers and sisters perhaps?  


KAREN BARLOW: Parents… who have been informed. Yes. 


MARK COLVIN: But he was single and no children, as far as we know?  


KAREN BARLOW: And they don't want to release too many details about him. 


MARK COLVIN: Alright, what do we know about the operation?  


KAREN BARLOW: This was an Australian operation, no other Coalition forces were involved. It was a deliberate and planned attack. This was no surprise raid by the Taliban. They were taking the fight straight to the Taliban. They were going into a Taliban compound in southern Afghanistan. Basically they were looking for bomb making facilities and they took the firefight straight to them. There were heavy casualties on the other side. Many Taliban soldiers were killed and there have been many taken into custody. 


MARK COLVIN: Let's hear Air Chief Marshal Houston announced it. 


ANGUS HOUSTON: This is a tragic day for the Australian Defence Force, and most especially for Private Worsley's family and friends. I extend my deepest sympathy to them on behalf of all people in the Defence organisation. Private Worsley's immediate next of kin have been informed and we are doing everything we can to support them at this very difficult time. Our thoughts are also with the other members of this soldier's company and the wider special operations community. 


MARK COLVIN: The chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston. Well, this has come of course on the very last day of the election campaign. Have the two leaders had anything to say about it, Karen Barlow? 


KAREN BARLOW: Swiftly they have taken themselves away from their campaigning and their shopping centres and they took time out to pay tribute to Private Worsley. 


JOHN HOWARD: He died an Australian soldier in a just cause, fighting in Afghanistan. I extend to his immediate next of kin, his father, and his other family and close loved ones, my very deep sympathy. It's the third battle death the Australian forces have suffered in Afghanistan in the space of only two months. It's a reminder of how dangerous that operation is. 


KEVIN RUDD: The death of this Australian soldier on active duty is heartbreaking news for his family, and it's terrible news for the Australian Defence Force and for the Australian nation. It's a terrible reminder of the risks and dangers that our men and women in uniform face in service of their country on active duty. We salute his service. 


MARK COLVIN: Kevin Rudd, and before him, John Howard. Karen Barlow, did Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston say, given that this was an aggressive operation, it wasn't like the last killing in which they were ambushed, whether this kind of tactic would continue?  


KAREN BARLOW: Well, basically he is happy with the way the forces have been operation in southern Afghanistan, despite these three deaths in two months. So he has no plans for review at this time. I must stress, there was no other Australian soldier killed or injured in this action, which was deliberate and planned by the Australian forces. So they planned to continue the way they have been operating. 


MARK COLVIN: Karen Barlow, thank you very much. 


Karen Barlow speaking there after a news conference by Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston.