(AP) WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Two New Zealand soldiers have been killed and another six injured during a battle with insurgents in Afghanistan in an incident that has rocked New Zealand's small defense community.
The two deaths Saturday bring New Zealand's total number of fatalities in Afghanistan since the war began to seven.
The New Zealand Defence Force said Sunday that the soldiers were killed near the town of Do Abe in central Bamiyan province as they came to the aid of local security forces who were under attack. Two Afghan security officers were also killed and seven others injured.
New Zealand has stationed about 150 soldiers in the largely peaceful Afghan province since 2003.
"This is a reminder of the dangers our soldiers face," New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told reporters Sunday. "These soldiers have paid the highest price, and my thoughts are with their family and friends."
Three of the injured soldiers remained in a serious condition in a military hospital. The other three had moderate injuries.
Lt. Gen Rhys Jones, the chief of the Defence Force, said Afghan forces requested help from the New Zealand soldiers after being ambushed on their way to make a planned arrest. The insurgents killed two Afghan officers and took refuge in a building, Jones said.
As the New Zealand soldiers attempted to secure the area, they were attacked by a second group of insurgents, Jones said. One of the soldiers died when insurgents hit his armored vehicle with a rocket-propelled grenade while the second was killed by insurgent gunfire.
Jones said about 17 insurgents escaped carrying several dead and wounded comrades. New Zealand forces captured one insurgent, who will be turned over to Afghan authorities, he added.
He said insurgents have been carrying out more sophisticated attacks in the region over the past month.
Jones said the two soldiers killed Saturday will not be named until Monday to give their families time to grieve privately.
Key said the latest deaths won't alter New Zealand's plan to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan at some point during 2013.