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Decorated NZ soldier killed in Afghanistan

Published: 3:00PM Wednesday August 04, 2010 Source: ONE News

The New Zealand soldier killed in an ambush in Afghanistan was due to receive medals for his deployment there having already been honoured for his service in Timor Leste.

Lieutenant Timothy O'Donnell, 28, died when his patrol in the north-east of the Bamiyan province came under attack along a notorious stretch of road that borders the neighbouring and more violent province of Baglan.

Two other New Zealand soldiers were injured in the attack and are said to have serious, but not life threatening injuries, including burns, cuts and abrasions.

A local interpreter taking part in the patrol was also wounded.

O'Donnell has been described by the army as a highly competent and widely liked officer.

He was due to be awarded two medals as a result of his deployment to Afghanistan - the NZ General Service Medal (Afghanistan) and a NATO Medal.

A member of the New Zealand Army for five years, he deployed to Timor Leste in November 2006 and Afghanistan in April 2010.

In Timor Leste, he was recognised for his actions leading a platoon conducting a security patrol. He was presented with a Distinguished Service Decoration (DSD) by the Governor General, Sir Anand Satyanand, in the 2008 New Year Honours.

The citation described the action for which he received his DSD.

"Lieutenant O'Donnell, in the rank of Second Lieutenant, served as Platoon Commander in Timor Leste from November 2006 to May 2007, as part of the NZDF contribution to the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF)," the citation said.

"His platoon was conducting a security patrol in April 2007 when it encountered a crowd of approximately 1,000 Fretilin supporters returning from an election rally in Dili.

"The crowd, escorted by UN Police officers, halted on the outskirts of Manatuto, fearing attacks from opposition political supporters. While the platoon was endeavouring to secure a safe route, the UN Police began moving the Fretilin supporters across a bridge toward Manatuto.

"The crowd was then ambushed by some 600 opposition supporters throwing rocks and firing steel darts and arrows. Under the hail of projectiles, the police escort was quickly overwhelmed and withdrew, leaving the Fretilin convoy stranded on the bridge. He made a quick decision to intervene in the melee, which meant that his platoon also came under attack.

"Eventually, his platoon managed to push back the attackers and secure a bypass route around Manatuto for the Fretilin convoy, which safely circumnavigated the town without loss of life or serious injury.

"Soon after ISF reinforcements arrived on the scene to assist in restoring law and order to the town. Without the decisive intervention of his platoon, it is likely that the situation could have deteriorated resulting in a number of fatalities between the rival political supporters."

O'Donnell was awarded four honours and awards - the New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration, the New Zealand General Service Medal (Timor Leste), the New Zealand Operational Service Medal and the Timor-Leste Solidarity Medal, a Timorese Award.

He also served in the guard of honour for the funeral of Sir Edmund Hilary in January 2008.

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