Five Australian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan in two separate incidents, according to NATO officials. Three soldiers were shot on Wednesday by an Afghan wearing a soldier's uniform, bringing to 45 the number of NATO-led coalition troops killed in rogue shootings this year. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Spiegel confirmed the deaths.
In response to the shocking news Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will return early from a regional Pacific leader's conference. Speaking at a news conference she said, "it's going to feel for many Australians like a physical blow although the mission in Afghanistan will continue."
Opinion polls in Australia say Australians overwhelmingly want their troops out of Afghanistan, where 1,500 troops are currently based, and their neighbour New Zealand said just last week it would accelerate the withdrawal of its troops after three more were killed by a roadside bomb. These latest deaths will no doubt shine the light on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is due to lead a U.S. government team to the 16-member forum from Friday.
Written and presented by Ann Salter.