Operation fully authorised: Smith

DEFENCE Minister Stephen Smith has hit out at what he called a "misunderstanding" after Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai condemned the killing of two Afghanis during an operation to capture people linked with the "green on blue" attack last week.

The operation over the weekend sought to capture Hek Matullah, the man allegedly responsible for the killing of three Australia soldiers in Uruzgan province last week.

The three diggers killed were Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Private Robert Poate and Sapper James Martin.

During the night operation at the weekend, 80 Afghan troops and about 60 International Security and Assistance Force troops killed two Afghanis that Mr Smith said were involved with insurgent forces.

The operation also resulted in the detention of 12 Afghani nationals, 11 of whom were released after questioning.

Mr Smith said the remaining man was believed to be a leader of a local insurgent force in Afghanistan.

"The operation in question was fully authorised, was fully partnered, and the outcome of the operation has been the detention of an individual who is regarded not just as a leader of the insurgency in Uruzgan Province, but a person who has also sought to, or actually, assisted Hek Matullah in his escape," he said.

"The International Security Assistance Force has made it clear that the view of the person who is being detained is a person who has sought to, or given assistance to, Hek Matullah after the event.

"In other words, has sought to facilitate his escape from Afghan National Security Forces and Australian forces."
Mr Smith's statements came after President Karzai condemned the attacks, which he said killed a 70-year-old man and his 30-year-old son.

His office released a statement which said he believed it to be a breach of the memorandum of understanding between Afghanistan and NATO.

But Mr Smith said the operation relied on verifiable information, which the leaders of the ISAF were also privy to.

He said there had also been changes to ISAF operations in Afghanistan, with the United States pulling out of training Afghani troops, on the back of similar green on blue attacks against its soldiers.

But Mr Smith said no Australian operations were affected, and the only changes made were to put "additional precautionary measures" in place to protect Australia's troops in Uruzgan.

Topics:  afghanistan defence stephen smith

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