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Fallen soldier farewelled with 'fierce haka'

Published: 4:47PM Tuesday October 04, 2011 Source: ONE News

Fallen soldier Lance Corporal Leon Smith was farewelled from Afghanistan with a fierce haka from SAS troops today.

Smith was killed last week after being shot in the Afghanistan province of Wardak.

New Zealand, UK, US and Australian troops saluted Smith at the ramp ceremony where he was passed into the care of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) for his return home.

An ADF C 17 transport aircraft carried Smith's body from Afghanistan to an undisclosed location before he was transferred to a flight back to New Zealand.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said he is grateful for the assistance and care provided to Smith by the ADF.

"I know they have had to face the loss of their own in Afghanistan."

"My thoughts and those of the whole NZDF, and indeed all of New Zealand, are with his family as they face their loss," he said.

Smith will be given a private funeral by his SAS comrades in Papakura, Auckland on Thursday before his body is returned to his family for a private funeral later this week.

The Defence Force says Smith and his fellow SAS were supporting the local police crisis response unit when they came under a suspected insurgent attack.

A Kabul-based freelance journalist Bette Dam has insisted the SAS were caught up in a domestic dispute which had nothing to do with the Taleban and has said a rival family may have told authorities the family involved were insurgents.

However, the Defence Force Chief said yesterday claims the incident was a case of mistaken identity were ''absolute rubbish''.

''This was a legal process that went through the proper processes.

''Yes, some of the information may have come from disgruntled people - Afghanistan is a divided country - but these were IED (improvised explosive device) facilitators, there is no doubt about that,'' he said.

Jones said evidence proved those involved in the gunfight were insurgents but he would not be drawn on what that evidence was.

''The type of information we are not releasing because that might lead to action to reduce the effectiveness of what we found.''

SAS soldiers' faces are blurred in photos of the ceremony sticking with protocol to keep their identities secret.

Smith was the second Kiwi SAS to be killed in a month in Afghanistan.