Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Taliban leader behind Kiwi deaths killed

Taliban leader Haji Abdullah Gardande was killed in a clash with police in Afghanistan.
Taliban leader Haji Abdullah Gardande was killed in a clash with police in Afghanistan.

A notorious Taliban commander behind the killing of New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan has died in a shootout with Afghani security forces.

Haji Abdullah Gardande, an insurgent leader in the Bamyan province where New Zealand Defence Force troops were based for 12 years, was killed on Sunday, Afghanistan's Ministry of Defence says.

During a 48-hour purge by security forces across the country, almost 100 insurgents were killed, including 47 Isis (Islamic State) members and six district leaders.

Haji Abdullah died during a clash with police forces in the Sherbar district, local news agency Khaama Press reported.

The NZDF has been approached for comment.

A feared and ruthless Taliban leader, Haji Abdullah was involved in many deadly attacks, public executions and torture.

He was involved in the Taliban ambush in the Shikari Valley of Bamyan on August 4, 2012.

Later known as the Battle of Baghak, the intense firefight claimed the lives of 26-year-old Lance Corporals Rory Patrick Malone and Pralli Durrer. Six of their comrades were wounded.

Two insurgents were captured during the fierce battle, including Haji Abdullah's brother.

Two weeks later, on August 19, 2012, Crib 20 deployment comrades Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, and Private Richard Harris, 21, died when their Humvee hit a 20kg roadside improvised explosive device.

A fellow senior Taliban leader, Abdullah Kalta, thought to be behind that bombing, was reportedly killed by coalition forces in November 2012.

Local government officials said Haji Abdullah had earlier been involved in the slaying of four intelligence operatives and a checkpoint attack that killed three policemen.

New Zealand's decade-long military contribution in Afghanistan was mainly centred on the mountainous, ancient province of Bamyan, renowned for its historical Buddha statues.

When the Defence Force pulled out in April 2013, Bamyan provincial governor Dr Habiba Sarabi thanked the Kiwi troops for keeping the Taliban at bay.

"The Bamyan people will not forget the services and the humanitarian support of the New Zealand people," he said.

It is now one of the most peaceful provinces in central Afghanistan.

Last year, on the fourth anniversary of the deaths of Malone and Durrer, Bamyan provincial governor spokesman Abdulrahman Ahmadi told the Herald that local insurgents had entered into a peace process and Shikari Valley was "safe" and enjoys "no problem to the people and security forces".

- NZ Herald

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