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Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan

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1 Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan on Sun May 29, 2011 4:45 pm

SYDNEY – An Australian soldier was killed and two others wounded in an explosion in southern Afghanistan, bringing Australia's death toll from the conflict to 24, defense officials said Tuesday.

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 Defense Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston.

Two other soldiers were wounded and are in serious condition at a hospital. They are expected to recover, defense 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 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 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, the largest force provided by any country outside NATO and the 10th largest overall.

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