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Fallen soldiers welcomed home with rousing haka

Published: 6:05AM Thursday August 23, 2012 Source: ONE News

The bodies of three New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghanistan were welcomed home with an emotional haka in Christchurch today.

Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris were killed when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle near Do Abe in Bamiyan province on Sunday.

The trio were farewelled with a ramp ceremony in Afghanistan on Tuesday night, before their caskets left for Australia in an Australian Air Force Hercules.

From there they were transferred to a New Zealand Hercules for the final leg home.

This afternoon the soldiers' families were welcomed on board the New Zealand Hercules at a ramp ceremony in Christchurch.

Troops lined up and saluted the fallen soldiers before performing a haka as the bodies were carried off the plane.

Chief of Army Major General Tim Keating said he wished the circumstances of the soldiers' return were different.

"It is my privilege to stand beside the families of Corporal Tamatea, Lance Corporal Baker and Private Harris as they return to New Zealand, and honour their sacrifice with the dignity and respect they deserve," he said.

Keating acknowledged the support provided by the Australian Defence Force in returning the soldiers home.

Around 200 military personnel attended the service, as well as Minister of Defence Jonathon Coleman and Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones.

A full memorial service is due to be held at Burnham Military Camp on Saturday.

The families of the soldiers are expected to hold private funeral services later next week. 

The latest deaths bring the total number of Kiwi soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 10.