Australian PM attends funeral of dead soldier in Afghanistan

21:24, July 01, 2010      

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Julia Gillard attended the first military funeral as Australian prime minister on Thursday, joining mourners to honour fallen commando Ben Chuck.

Gillard was among those who gathered on the banks of Lake Tinaroo, in north Queensland, to farewell Private Chuck, who was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on June 21.

Defence Force chief Angus Houston, federal opposition leader Tony Abbott and Premier of Queensland state Anna Bligh were also among the mourners at a service kept private at the request of Pte Chuck's family.

The service was held near the 27-year-old's hometown of Yungaburra, southwest of Cairns.

Members of his 2nd Commando Regiment were present, flying home from Afghanistan to attend the service. They formed an honour guard for his casket and acted as pall bearers.

About 1,550 Australian troops have been sent to Afghanistan to patrol and train local government police. A total of 16 Australian soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2002.



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