Australia has sustained its first combat casualty in Afghanistan or Iraq after a roadside bomb killed a soldier in southern Afghanistan, the country's military chief said Tuesday.
The soldier, whose name and rank were not immediately released, was killed Monday when an improvised explosive device went off near the armored vehicle he was driving, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston told reporters in Canberra. Another soldier was seriously injured in the attack.
"This is a tragic day for the Australian Defense Force and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these two soldiers," Houston told reporters in the capital, Canberra. "We're now working on arrangements to bring the body of the fallen soldier back to Australia."
The soldier's death comes as Australia prepares for general elections due to be called anytime in the next few weeks. Polls show conservative Prime Minister John Howard facing a landslide defeat amid rising opposition to Australia's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.