10:56 GMT24 September 2020
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    The attack occurred in an airfield barracks of the Austrian Armed Forces' Special Operations group known as the Jagdkommando in Lower Austria. A duty officer spotted two Belgian shepherds running around at night and asked a dog handler to lock them up. The latter discovered the body of a badly bitten fellow soldier.

    A 31-year-old sergeant died following an alleged attack by two military dogs in airfield barracks of the so-called Jagdkommando – an elite group of the country’s armed forces, in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, Kronen Zeitung reports. One of his fellow officers found the lacerated body with severe bite injuries at about 2 a.m. near the kennels where the two Belgian shepherds were kept.

    As military spokesman Michael Bauer revealed, the tragedy played out when the majority of the commandos were carrying out exercises in Styria. A duty officer noticed two shepherds, running around the base and woke their handler, who went to lock the animals up. It was he who discovered the severely bitten victim. The police were immediately called to the scene.

    The State Criminal Police Office has taken over the investigation and is collecting evidence, while the prosecution is also involved in the probe. An autopsy would reportedly also be arranged. The armed forces have set up an accident commission, including a veterinarian, a doctor, and a lawyer. What exactly happened is yet to be determined.

    The 31-year-old is said to have gone to the kennels at about 4 p.m. to feed five dogs there, as it was his turn to take care of them that evening. His service dog stayed behind in the vehicle. He was a senior sergeant and had worked as a dog handler since 2017. He was considered a "very experienced, prudent and thoughtful colleague", Bauer said.

    The two animals suspected of killing the soldier were trained to render any attacker harmless, as other dogs of their breed. According to Bauer, however, this was the first time that the service dogs had attacked soldiers.

    "Nobody has ever been hurt", he said.

    Austrian Defence Minister Thomas Starlinger was deeply saddened by the tragedy as well as the country’s president.

    "I offer my deepest sympathy to the family and relatives of the killed chief sergeant as well his comrades in the Austrian Armed Forces", President Alexander Van der Bellen stated.


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