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Arrest over attack on Kiwi soldiers 'a relief'

Published: 6:43AM Monday September 24, 2012 Source: ONE News

The arrest of a senior Taliban weapons dealer suspected to be behind an attack which killed two New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan comes as a 'relief', the grandfather of one of the fallen soldiers says.

Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone, both aged 26, were killed by insurgents in Bamiyan Province on August 4 after a fierce three-minute gun fight in a village near Do Abe. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, Private Richard Harris, 21, and Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, died two weeks after Durrer and Malone when their Humvee was hit by a bomb in Bamiyan Province.

Major Martyn Crighton of the International Security Assistance Force told ONE News the Taliban weapons leader was captured during a mission conducted by the Afghan special operation unit and coalition forces in Baghlan province, near Bamiyan, in the early hours of this morning.

He said the arrested man is a prominent leader within the Taliban network, and was suspected to be involved in the fatal August 4 attack.

"The Afghan coalition force has taken somebody the Taliban has put in a fairly senior position so you would think that it would have implications for how they run operations."

Two other arrests were made, he said, and during the operation the Afghan and coalition forces were threatened by an armed insurgent, who was subsequently shot dead.

Durrer's grandfather Jack said the arrest news came as "a surprise" and was a "relief to hear".

"It's good they found someone that was behind it, but he's not the only one. He can't have done everything by himself," he said.

He said the arrest meant there one less bomb-maker and meant there would be less danger for New Zealand troops in Afghanistan.

"I'm quite happy for the troops that are still there, that something is established before they come back in October."

Jack said his family would let justice run its course.

"I don't think they will go in for an eye for an eye or something like that, I think we better leave that to the ones in charge."

Crighton said those arrested will face charges, but said he did not "know how they will be held unaccountable for what the evidence shows they have been involved in specifically".

Crighton said he could not discuss the nations that were involved in the operation.

"Obviously New Zealand is a valued partner within the coalition but I can't speak about whether they were or how they were involved in the operation."

'We weren't involved'

Key told TV ONE's Breakfast that he thought the arrest was "very good news".

"These are people that are proven are responsible for killing brave New Zealand soldiers, and taking them (Taliban members) out of action means that that's a safer environment for our people," he said.

Key said "in terms of boots on the ground going in and undertaking this operation" New Zealand soldiers were not involved in the operation.

"My understanding is that we weren't involved but they have arrested a senior figure, that's really good news, and that person is now in detention, but outside that I don't have a lot of details I'm sure more will emerge later in the day."

Key said he did not know if the four New Zealand SAS logistics officers, who were sent to Afghanistan earlier this month to gather intelligence for a retribution attack on insurgents, were involved prior to the capture, but it was "imminently possible".

"They've been working on trying to gather information for exactly this reason because you need this information, you need this specific knowledge, before you can actually go in and undertake these missions and they have been working on that in Afghanistan."

All five troops killed in Afghanistan were part of New Zealand's provincial reconstruction team.

The deaths brought the total number of Kiwis soldiers who died in Afghanistan to 10, with Baker bring the first female to be killed in battle since the Vietnam War.

The Government confirmed earlier this month that New Zealand troops would be out of the war-torn nation by the end of April next year.

- With Newstalk ZB