Taliban commander responsible for Kiwi deaths killed
Monday 26 Nov 2012 7:06 a.m.
By 3 News online staff
The Taliban commander responsible for the deaths of at least four New Zealand soldiers has been killed in Afghanistan.
Abdullah Kalta was killed in an airstrike by a joint Afghan-coalition operation in the Baghlan province sometime last week.
Three New Zealand soldiers - Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance-Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris - were killed in an IED attack on August 19.
Prime Minister John Key has confirmed Kalta's death, but has few details.
"I think that's good news because it makes Afghanistan a safer place for our people," he said this morning.
Jon Stephenson, a New Zealand reporter based in Kabul, says Afghan and coalition forces both say Kalta was a very well-informed and resourced commander.
"What has been confirmed by the US-led coalition here in Afghanistan is that Abdullah Kalta… has been killed in a coalition operation several days ago," says Mr Stephenson.
"I'm told he was killed along with two other Taliban insurgents in an airstrike by a coalition aircraft."
Mr Stephenson says Kalta was also believed to be responsible for the death of Lt Tim O'Donnell, a member of the Provincial Reconstruction Team killed in August 2010.
"They feel like they've got rid of a very significant leader who has been a thorn in their side for some time," says Mr Stephenson.
There is no information at this stage Kalta was linked to the August 4, 2012 attack which saw two New Zealand soldiers killed - Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Lance Corporal Rory Malone.
"It's possible that he had some links, but certainly the coalition here in Afghanistan are not claiming that in the statements they've given me today," says Mr Stephenson.
"There is a major counter-insurgency operation taking place. This is obviously a very important step in that operation, but the attacks that killed five New Zealanders in August sparked a great deal of concern not only amongst the New Zealand military and the New Zealand Government, but amongst the US-led coalition here in Afghanistan, and there have been extensive efforts, I am told, to take care of the problems of the insurgency in that area of Baghlan province, which spill over into Bamiyan."
It's believed New Zealand provided intelligence on Kalta's whereabouts to the coalition.
Ten New Zealand soldiers have died in service in Afghanistan.