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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian special forces soldier has been killed and two of his fellow troops were wounded in a gun battle with insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

The soldier, whose name had not been released at the request of his family, was killed on Saturday on his fifth tour of Afghanistan. He was decorated member of the Sydney-based 2nd Commando Regiment who had also served in Iraq and East Timor, Australian Defense Force Chief Lt. Gen. David Hurley said on Sunday.

He was the 40th Australian casualty of the campaign and the first since October.

A seriously wounded Australian soldier was flown to Kandahar for surgery to a gunshot wound. An Australian airman was treated for minor wounds at the Australian base at Tarin Kowt, he said.

The Australian troops were supporting an operation by the elite Afghan troops of the Uruzgan Provincial Response Company.

Hurley said Australian special forces were becoming more focused on supporting this Afghan company ahead of the Tarin Kowt base closing late this year.

"There is still a very active role for our special forces until at least the base closes at the end of this year," Hurley said.

Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan and is the biggest contributing country outside NATO.

Most of these troops will be withdrawn by the time the Tarin Kowt base is closed and responsibility for security in Uruzgan is handed over to Afghan forces.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the death was a reminder that the Australian mission and its dangers were ongoing.

"We are very clear about our mission. We are clear about its end point," she said.

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