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Oct 30, 2011 at 02:45pm IST

Aus troops not to withdraw from Afghanistan

Perth: Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Sunday said the killing of three Australian soldiers in Afghanistan will not undermine Canberra's will to continue its mission in the war-torn nation as the military deployment there was in national interests.

Describing Saturday's deadliest incident for Australian troops in Afghanistan as a 'bitter day for Australia', Gillard said the mission would continue as planned.

Three soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded when an Afghan national soldier fired on a parade at a base in Shah Wali Kot, in Kandahar province on Saturday.

Aus troops not to withdraw from Afghanistan

Three Australian soldiers were killed and 7 others were wounded when an Afghan national soldier fired on a parade.

She conceded the deaths - which bring to four the number of Australians killed by Afghan allies this year - would cause Australians to ask "deep and troubling questions".

But Gillard said: "This does not change our mission." She urged people not to judge the progress Australian forces

were making on the one incident alone.

"Despite the gravity of this incident, and the horror of this incident, we are making progress in training members of the Afghan National Army," she said.

She said a clear strategy and timeline were in place for the mission.

"We can't allow our will to be undermined by the kinds of attacks that are aimed at corroding trust," she said, adding that the attack was designed to erode the trust in the mission and that between Australian soldiers and the Afghan national army.

Saturday's attack was the largest single incident in Afghanistan involving Australian personnel. So far, 32 Australians have died in the Afghanistan mission and 209 have been wounded, including 43 this year, Sydney Morning Post reported.

Gillard said if Australia was to pull out, it would leave a vacuum in Afghanistan that would be filled by terrorists and the Taliban.

"We are there to deny terrorists safe haven in the future," she said.

Gillard offered her condolences to the families of the dead, who she described as "fine Australians".

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