Taliban militants attacked an Australian patrol with automatic rifles and rocket propelled grenades in southern Afghanistan, and the ensuing battle left one of the commandos dead and four others wounded, officials said Monday.
The battle occurred Sunday in Uruzgan province about 16 miles southeast of the town of Tirin Kot, said Air Marshal Angus Houston, the chief of Australia's defense forces, AP reported.
Taliban gunmen opened fire on the elite Australian Special Forces troops without warning, Houston said.
"The commandos were involved in a deliberate assault. They were out in the open and, as they were doing their preparations, they were engaged by the Taliban," Houston said. "There was a heavy exchange of fire."
He said he did not have information on Taliban casualties.
Australians should brace themselves for more casualties in Afghanistan in the months head, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd warned Monday.
Rudd said Australia's 1,000 troops in Afghanistan will face a more "difficult and dangerous and bloody" campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents as the winter snow melts with spring.
"This toll will become worse. Let's accept that reality and prepare ourselves for it," Rudd told reporters in the national capital Canberra.
Lance Cpl. Jason Marks, 27, was killed in the fighting and four other Australians were seriously wounded Sunday. They were airlifted to medical treatment and their wounds were not considered life threatening, Houston said.
Australia joined the U.S.-led attack to unseat the Taliban regime from power in 2001, and still has about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan. Marks is the fifth Australian soldier killed in combat in Afghanistan.
The attack came hours after militants made an apparent assassination attempt on the Afghan president at a ceremony in the capital, Kabul, on Sunday. They missed their target but killed three other people and wounded eight.