Afghan attack: Weapons dealer arrested

By nzherald.co.nz, Newstalk ZB staff, APNZ

Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Lance Corporal Rory Malone.
Photo / Supplied
Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Lance Corporal Rory Malone. Photo / Supplied

The grandfather of a Kiwi soldier killed in Afghanistan has welcomed the arrest of a senior Taliban member connected to the attack.

Lance Corporals Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer, both 26, were killed and six New Zealanders were injured during an ambush after their patrols went to assist Afghan police in Bamiyan Province.

Major Martin Crighton of the International Security Assistance Force said a successful Afghan and coalition operation has taken place this morning in Talah wa Barfak district, Baghlan Province.

"A Taliban weapons dealer was arrested, and that weapons dealer is a senior member of the Taliban network, suspected of being responsible for the attack on 4 August, that resulted in the death of New Zealand soldiers."

Major Crighton said the suspect is the third highest ranking Taliban official in that district, and is currently being questioned.

He could not confirm whether any New Zealand solders were involved in the operation.

Grandfather: It's a surprise and a relief

The grandfather of Pralli Durrer welcomed the capture of a Taleban weapons dealer.

Jack Durrer, who helped raise Pralli in Christchurch with his uncle Joe and aunt Ani Lhamo after the sudden death of Pralli's mother in 1998, said the the family was relieved to hear the news.

"We knew they were looking for someone but when I turned on the news this morning it came as a surprise but a relief too.

"He's not the only one. They didn't say how many they caught there and there will be others still out there.''

Mr Durrer said the family wasn't interested in "an eye for an eye'' but rather justice through the Afghanistan courts system.

He said it would provide a "morale boost'' for troops still serving, especially ahead of the last contingent of NZDF personnel departing for a six month deployment to Afghanistan tomorrow.

"It's a bit of a victory,'' he said.

The ISAF said the arrested man managed the purchase and distribution of rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and explosive materials used to attack Afghan and coalition security forces throughout the region.

"At the time of his arrest the Taliban weapons dealer was believed to be acquiring additional firearms and explosives for future insurgent attacks," the ISAF said in a statement.

One person was killed in the raid.

"As the security force approached the Taliban weapon dealer's location, an armed insurgent displayed hostile intent towards the Afghan and coalition troops. The security force positively identified the lethal threat and engaged the armed insurgent, killing him. No civilians were harmed during the operation."

Prime Minister: Situation safer for Kiwi soldiers

Prime Minister John Key welcomed the arrest of the weapons dealer.

"I think it is very good news, these are people who are proven to be responsible for killing brave New Zealand soldiers," Mr Key told TVNZ's Breakfast.

"Taking them out of action means that that is a safer environment for our people, so that's good news."

Mr Key did not know whether New Zealand logistics personnel were involved in gathering intelligence used in the operation.

"But in terms of boots on the ground, going in and undertaking the operation, it wasn't our people."

Kiwi journalist in Afghanistan: Unlikely Kiwi soldiers involved

New Zealand freelance journalist Jon Stephenson, who is based in Afghanistan, told Radio New Zealand it was fairly unlikely that New Zealanders were involved in the raid.

The operation would hinder the ability of the insurgents to operate effectively in the area and make it safer for the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team, he said.

Stephenson said the coalition revealed few details about special forces operations but it was likely the raid was conducted very early in the morning.

"That's common here because they like to catch insurgents by surprise and also the special forces have the advantage of things like night vision gear, which the insurgents don't have.''

A coalition officer told Stephenson it was a helicopter-borne assault.

"What they said was that when they approached the location of this senior Taleban leader, that one insurgent acted with what they described as hostile intent,'' he said.

Stephenson said the forces opened fire and killed the insurgent.

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