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Australian Soldier dead in Iraq


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An Australian soldier has died in Iraq from a wound received when his rifle accidentally discharged.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has confirmed the soldier - a married father of two - shot himself while maintaining his gun. He ruled out suicide.

Dr Nelson said the soldier was "highly regarded by his colleagues, he was highly regarded by his commanding officer, and was seen as one of the most outstanding soldiers who served in the security detachment.

"He had particularly good rifle skills, so we're all somewhat shocked by this and taken aback ... we'll be doing everything we possibly can to see that these kinds of incidents do not occur again,'' Dr Nelson said.

"The soldier was simply handling his weapon and maintaining his weapon as soldiers are required to do, and for some unexplained reason the firearm discharged and the bullet unfortunately entered the soldier's head," he said.

"Several hours after the injury, despite receiving the best of medical care, he unfortunately passed away."

Dr Nelson said the death could lead to a further tightening of procedures surrounding weapons maintenance, with army officials drawing up recommendations on how to further reduce the rate of accidental weapons fire.

He said a new regime of "training and regulation of weapons" was instituted after Australia's troop deployment to East Timor saw a spate of accidental weapons fire.

"So long as we have soldiers and we have guns there will from time to time be accidents ... and no matter what controls are put in place, human error can occur and a tragic accident, as we appear to have seen overnight in Baghdad,'' said Dr Nelson.

The Minister said the soldier's body would be returned to Australia within days. A military and coronial inquest would also be held.

He said army officials had contacted with the man's family, which includes a wife and child. The soldier is understood to have family based in Victoria.

Army Chief Lieutenant General Peter Leahy said the soldier, part of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, based at Holsworthy, outside Sydney, had been in Baghdad since March with the 110-member security detachment, known as SECDET.

He described the death as a "tragic accident".

"He was a young man, married with two small children. His commander in the field tells me that he was a fun-loving and very popular soldier who was very positive towards his career in the army," General Leahy said.

:(

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RIP, my question is was he cleanign a loaded gun, or was it a freak accident, if it was loaded why was he cleaning a loaded weapon?

Unfortunately, loaded weapons are often mishandled. I am of the camp that believes there is no such thing as an accidental discharge. It is simply negligence.

Either way, this is sad to hear that someone commited to the service has passed away. RIP indeed.

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