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Un soldat australien tué en Afghanistan

Un neuvième soldat australien à été tué au cours de combat avec une vingtaine d'insurgés taliban lundi 16 mars 2009 dans la région de Tarin kowt.
Il s'agit du Corporal Matthew Hopkins.

Un soldat australien tué en Afghanistan
NT soldier Matthew Hopkins was killed in Afghanistan.

Source : Article du Northern territory

A NORTHERN Territory soldier killed during a ferocious firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan was just 21 years old.
Defence said Corporal Matthew Hopkins is the first NT soldier – and the second non-special forces soldier – to die in action in the conflict zone since 2002.

His family have declined to speak publicly about their ordeal.

Cpl Hopkins was from the Darwin-based 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment at Robertson Barracks.

He was married and had only recently become a father.

Cpl Hopkins - described by Defence force chief Angus Houston as "fine, professional and courageous" - was one of about 440 Darwin-based Diggers on an eight-month deployment to Afghanistan as part of the Mentoring and Reconstruction Taskforce.

He was part of a joint patrol with the Afghan National Army, near Kakarak, 12km north of Tarin Kowt in the troubled Oruzgan Province, when about 20 Taliban insurgents sprayed them with withering gunfire about 4pm on Monday.

Air Chief Marshal Houston said it was a "very intense" firefight and Cpl Hopkins sustained a serious gunshot wound.

He said the Australian soldiers called in reinforcements and Apache helicopter support after coming under attack.

No other Australian soldier was wounded in the incident.

"We gave a good account of ourselves," he said.

"If you are up against 20 people who are well armed and engaging you with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms, there is going to be considerable risk associated with what you are doing."

He said Cpl Hopkins’ family was trying to come to grips with their loss.

"My highest priority is to ensure they receive the care and support they need during this difficult time," he said.

"On behalf of our nation, and the Australian Defence Force, I convey our deepest sympathies to his loved ones.

"I want them to know that all Australians mourn this soldier's loss.

“It's a sad day for our nation, and Australia will be forever indebted for his sacrifice."

He said the loss of the recently married soldier would make his comrades on Operation Slipper even more determined.

"Our people continue to proudly serve our nation and remain committed to fighting terrorism at its source," he said.

He said the warmer weather would likely bring on an upsurge in fighting.

"That is the pattern we have seen over the last few years and we are probably seeing more Taliban activity now than (in) winter," he said.

The Mentoring and Reconstruction Taskforce is mostly comprised of engineers, mechanised infantry and cavalry from the NT's 1st Brigade units - 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, 2nd Cavalry Regiment and 1st Combat Engineer Regiment.

Since November last year, four Darwin-based soldiers working with the taskforce have been injured.

Two other 7RAR soldiers were flown home late last year with combat injuries.

One of those was Private Matthew Pepi - shot during a two-hour firefight with Taliban fighters on December 28. He is still recovering from injuries.

Defence said the death of an Australian soldier highlighted the ongoing danger that all Defence personnel in Afghanistan face.

"It remains a very dangerous place," Air Chief Marshal Houston said.

Voir l'article du "The Australian"