Afghanistan army collapse was a ‘surprise’ says Lloyd Austin
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The former Afghan National Army soldier, named as Sergeant Hekmatullah shot Lance Cpl. Stjepan ‘Rick’ Milosevic, Pvt. Robert Poate and Sapper James Martin whilst they were relaxing in Australia’s main base in Tarik Kowt, back in 2012. The bloody attack wounded two others, and ended in the arrest of the rogue soldier in Pakistan following a six-month manhunt for the assailant.
However, the killer was released from house arrest in Qatar soon after Taliban forces swept across and claimed Afghanistan following the retreat of US and allied forces, according to a piece in The Australian.
Defence officials aware of the exchange did not release information of the exchange to the public, but did inform the relatives of the slain soldiers.
As part of the peace negotiations taking place between the US and the Taliban, around 5,000 prisoners have been released in the deal.
Sgt. Hekmatullah flew out of Doha, where initially he remained under house arrest, but has since been allowed free.
Adding to the pain of the families left behind, the current whereabouts of the killer is unknown.
An Australian government spokesman simply said: “His whereabouts cannot be verified.”
Feeling for the families involved, the spokesman went to say: “We share the sorrow of Australians at this outcome and again offer our condolences to the families and the loved ones of our three fallen soldiers.”
It does not leave assurances as to whether he will strike again. Following his arrest in Pakistan, he is alleged to have said he will kill again.
The whereabouts of six other high-risk prisoners also remains unclear following the transition of power between allied forces and the Taliban.
The widow of Lance Corporal Milosevic, Kelly Walton, claims that many of the questions she had surrounding the brutal murder of her husband has been left unanswered.
Further responses were also not given when Ms Walton asked whether the confessed killer was being monitored by agencies, or whether he had a passport to travel.
The father of Private Poate also stated that defence officials showed “General lack of transparency” over the case by not disclosing details to the public.
An Australian Senate committee will address officials on their knowledge of the rogue Sergeant on Monday.
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The family of the victims claim the US should have killed Hekmatullah when officials spotted him in Afghanistan.
With the Taliban now in charge of Afghanistan, and the US in talks with the Taliban government for the first time since the retreat, ties appear to be warming.
However, with many Taliban supporters disillusioned at life under Taliban rule, claiming that the group are appearing to relaxed on certain rules, including women’s rights and Sharia Law, have started to defect and regroup within the Takfiri terrorist group, IS-K, known as Islamic State Khorasan.
Already clashes have started with several devastating suicide bombs rocking Afghanistan since the Taliban have taken over.
With the Taliban and IS-K being sworn enemies, tension will increase.
Regional states are worried that IS-K elements will train and spread from Afghanistan, across the region and beyond, once again, putting foreign military personnel under risk of further such attacks or incidents.
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