Warlord's death 'mix of shock, sadness'

By Kate Shuttleworth, Kurt Bayer

NZ troops have been based in Bamiyan. Photo / APN
NZ troops have been based in Bamiyan. Photo / APN

The killing of a senior Taleban warlord, blamed for the deaths of four New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan, has been met with shock and sadness by one grieving mother.

Intelligence gathered by crack Kiwi troops found that insurgent mastermind Abdullah Kalta was planning more lethal attacks, prompting the coalition forces' airstrike about 1.40pm local time last Wednesday, in Karimak, Kahmard District, north-east of Bamiyan.

The Taleban leader was responsible for a number of attacks in Bamiyan where New Zealand's Provincial Reconstruction Team has been based.

In August, Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones described Kalta and other insurgents as "proficient and aggressively trying to hunt us down".

The New Zealand Defence Force yesterday confirmed Kalta was believed to be directly behind two deadly attacks on New Zealanders.

They included the roadside bomb blast which destroyed the Humvee of army medic Lance Corporal Baker, 26, who died instantly along with comrades Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, and Private Richard Harris, 21, on August 19 this year.

Kalta was also held responsible for the slaying of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell in August 2010.

"The NZ Defence Force can confirm that a coalition air strike in Afghanistan resulted in the death of insurgent leader Abdullah Kalta," the NZDF confirmed.

Corporal Tamatea's mother, Lynne McSweeney, heard the news via media yesterday and reacted with a mixture of shock and sadness.

"I thought it might help with the grieving, but it hasn't," she said. "You get so immersed in your grief that you almost forget what happened. News like this brings it all back."

Mrs McSweeney, of Kawerau, was not critical of the NZDF for failing to tell her of Kalta's death before she heard it through the media.

She said modern communication meant news sometimes travelled faster than could be planned for.

Prime Minister John Key said New Zealand's troops in Afghanistan were now safer. Mr Key said the attack on Kalta happened last week and five insurgents were killed. He did not know if there were any civilian casualties.

New Zealand has three bases in Afghanistan, as well as 145 troops and equipment. Troops are due to return to New Zealand in April.

- APNZ

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