BRITISH PRINCES PAY TRIBUTE TO FIJIAN KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN

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William and Harry served with Trooper Babakobau

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 23, 2009) – Princes William and Harry yesterday paid tribute to their Fijian comrade who died in war-torn Afghanistan last year, saying they would miss Ratu Sakiasi Babakobau.

The inquest into the death of Trooper Babakobau, which started in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England, on Tuesday, heard the Bau Islander was killed by a landmine after taking his helmet off to cool down.

Trooper Babakobau, 29, from the Household Cavalry Regiment, was the first Fiji soldier to die in Afghanistan while on his first month of duty on May 2 last year.

William and Harry, who both served with Trooper Babakobau in Afghanistan against the Taliban, told the Daily Mail newspaper they were "deeply saddened" by the death of the Fijian colleague, a married father of two, known to them as Baba.

His parents Bulou Merekuri Ravuya and Seru Babakobau left for London last week for the inquest and are due to return this weekend.

The inquest heard how Trooper Babakobau had taken his helmet off just moments before the blast.

He was searching a dry riverbed when his armoured vehicle hit a mine while on routine patrol in the Nowzad area of the Helmand Province.

Trooper Babakobau was pronounced dead on arrival at Britain's main Camp Bastion base.

Three other soldiers and a translator, an Afghan national, were injured –– one of whom was blown 30 feet out of the vehicle.

His brother Panapasa said it would be one year on Saturday when Trooper Babakobau met his fate.

Princes William and Harry said they were "deeply saddened" by the death of their colleague, who was affectionately known as ‘Baba'.

Group commander Captain Rowland Spiller told the inquest that: "He (Babakobau) had his helmet on but on his return to the vehicle he took it off due to the intense heat.

"Suddenly we felt a blast come from behind and I felt the whole vehicle lurch to the right."

Bulou Mere-kuri,in an earlier interview, said the last time the family spoke to him was when he arrived in Afghanistan on April 7.

"I told him (Babakobau) to take his Bible with him wherever he goes on duty," Ms Ravuya said.

She said her son had planned to take her and his youngest sister, Latileta, to London in December.

"He was always encouraging me and telling me to carry on looking after his siblings despite the difficulties we face at home," she added.

He left Fiji in 2004 to join the British Army.

Tropper Babakobau is survived by wife Camari and two young sons, Ratu Seru and Ratu Sakeasi Sucumailodoni Selamu.

The two-day inquest ended yesterday.

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