Kiwi troops in 'safer position' following strike – Key
Monday 26 Nov 2012 4:43 p.m.
By Adam Ray
This afternoon more details were released of the air strike that took out Taliban leader Abdullah Kalta. It was revealed the man responsible for the deaths of four New Zealanders was killed just as he was about to launch another attack.
As a Taliban commander, Kalta is understood to have been responsible for the attacks that killed Corporal Luke Tamatea, Private Richard Harris and Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker in August of this year, and Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell in 2010.
Prime Minister John Key says Kalta was “seen as a very significant”, and that his death means New Zealand troops will be safer.
Kabul-based journalist Jon Stephenson says Kalta was a highly skilled leader.
“The coalition and Afghan forces will be very happy with the news of his demise – a major blow to the Afghan insurgent network,” he says.
But coalition forces found him elusive until last Wednesday when they tracked him to Kahmard district in northeast Bamiyan province. An airstrike was called in, killing him and four other insurgents.
The Government says an SAS team contributed intelligence for the attack but wasn't directly involved.
“They gathered information and passed it on to ISAF,” says Mr Key.
Kalta's death may improve security for Kiwi troops in Bamiyan but Mr Stephenson says coalition forces have other targets.
“Operations will be ongoing,” he says.
Corporal Tamatea's mother Lynn McSweeny told 3 News that Kalta's death is some relief, but she is thinking of Kalta's family who are grieving over a death from war, as is her family.