Australian commando airlifted after Afghan 'drug overdose'

3rd June 2010, Comments 0 comments

An Australian commando was airlifted to Germany after being found unconscious at his base in Afghanistan because of a suspected drug overdose, the country's top military commander said Thursday.

The soldier is in a coma in a German military hospital after he was found on Friday at the Tarin Kowt barracks in southern Uruzgan province, said Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston.

"It would appear at this early stage that the use of illicit drugs may be involved in this incident," said the Australian Defence Force chief.

"A bottle of pills and, separately, white powder thought to be an opiate were found in the soldier's room," he added.

The substance has not been analysed and Houston said no findings had been made about whether it "caused or contributed to his condition".

But he said all 300 of Australia's special operations soldiers in Afghanistan were being drug-tested and military police were investigating.

Houston said the soldier, identified only as "Private D", was in a serious condition and his prognosis for recovery was "uncertain".

He was given emergency first aid on the base and had further treatment at United States facilities in Kandahar and Bagram before being flown to Germany's Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre.

An official inquiry will examine the incident and probe broader questions about how soldiers might be obtaining illicit drugs and whether mental health services needed to be improved, Houston said.

He described Private D as a courageous and very professional soldier with six years' experience who was on his third deployment to Afghanistan.

Australia, the ninth biggest contributor of international forces in Afghanistan, boosted its troop commitment by 450 to about 1,550 last April, with most stationed in Uruzgan.

The country has lost 11 soldiers in the battle against the hardline Taliban Islamists who were forced from power in 2001.

© 2010 AFP

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