Australian soldiers die in Afghanistan

Australian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan in what is reported to have been an attack by someone wearing an Afghan security uniform, a ‘‘green on blue” attack.

Defence has confirmed that a number of Australians were killed. It is understood they were with the NATO-led force in southern Oruzgan province.

The Defence confirmation follows reports that three International Security Assistance Force members were killed by a person wearing an Afghan National Army.

In its statement, Defence said: ”Defence can confirm that Australian Defence Force personnel have been killed in Afghanistan.

”Defence is currently in the process of informing the next of kin of the ADF personnel involved.

”Defence requests you respect the highly sensitive nature of this notification process.

”The acting Chief of the Defence Force will make a statement once this process is complete.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is in the Cook Islands for the Pacific Islands Forum, is expected to give a media conference later today. She has cancelled her afternoon appointments at the forum.

About 1550 ADF troops are deployed in the province as part of the International Security Assistance Force.

ISAF said an individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon against ISAF members in southern Afghanistan, killing three.

There has recently been a rise in ‘‘green on blue” attacks in Afghanistan. Two US soldiers were killed earlier this week.

Retired major general Jim Molan told the ABC yesterday that such attacks could increase as international forces prepared to withdraw by 2014.

‘‘The probability of them increasing is high,” he said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the news of the deaths was a “terrible, terrible tragedy.”

“This is a black day for our military forces,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

Mr Abbott said his thoughts and prayers were with those who had been killed, their families and comrades.

He added it would not be appropriate to comment more specifically before acting chief of the Defence Force Air Marshal Binskin spoke.

Up until today Australia had lost 33 soldiers in Afghanistan since February 2002. Most recently, Sergeant Blaine Flower Diddams, of the Special Air Service Regiment, was killed during a small arms engagement with insurgents in July.

According to ISAF, this year more than 30 insider attacks have killed 45 coalition troops, making up about 14 per cent of the overall death toll in the war for 2012.

The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, US General John Allen, said last week the causes of the surge in insider attacks were varied, and that Taliban infiltration accounted for about a quarter of the incidents.

A Pentagon assessment last year found serious tensions between the coalition forces and their Afghan counterparts, with relations plagued by cultural clashes and deep mistrust.

Last year four Australian soldiers were killed by Afghan troops in two attacks.

In October, three Australian soldiers were killed by an Afghan Army sergeant when he turned a machine gun on them during a parade. The Afghan soldier was immediately shot dead.

In another incident in November, an Afghan soldier shot and wounded three Australians. He escaped and remains on the run.

In May last year, army cook Andrew Jones was shot dead by a rogue Afghan soldier at a patrol base.

Defence Materiel Minister Jason Clare told reporters in Sydney today that he was not yet able to comment on the latest attack.

“There are certain protocols in place that need to be followed and fully implemented over the next few hours,” Mr Clare said.

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