Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan

An Australian soldier has been killed and two others wounded in an explosion in southern Afghanistan, bringing Australia's death toll from the conflict to 24, defence officials say.

Sgt. Brett Wood, 32, was killed by an improvised explosive device on Monday, while on his third deployment to Afghanistan, said the head of the Australian Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston.

Two other soldiers were wounded and are in serious condition at a hospital. They are expected to recover, defence officials said.

"Brett's loss will be deeply felt across Australia's special forces community as he was an inspirational leader and a popular and highly respected member of his unit," Houston told reporters in Canberra.

Separately, three Australian soldiers were wounded in a firefight on Monday. They have also been hospitalized, and are in stable condition.

"This is a difficult and tragic day in the life of our nation," Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

Australia has 1550 troops in Afghanistan, the largest force provided by any country outside NATO and the 10th largest overall.



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