SAS behind Afghan killing – Defence Force
Lieutenant General Rhys Jones
New Zealand's SAS were not anywhere near the air strike that killed a senior Afghan Taliban leader thought to be responsible for the deaths of at least three New Zealand soldiers, the Defence Force says.
However, the SAS did gather the intelligence that led to the strike that killed Abdullah Kalta and four other insurgents last week, Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones says.
The insurgent leader played a significant role in the roadside bomb attack that killed Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance-Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris in August.
He was also linked with the ambush that killed Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell in August 2010.
"We know we have dealt them a blow," Lt Gen Jones told Radio New Zealand on Tuesday.
SAS troops were not on the ground when the strike took place.
The air strike, carried out by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), was based on information from a range of sources collated by the SAS, he said.
In most cases they wanted to capture Taliban heads alive, but in Abdullah Kalta's case the only option was to kill him, as it was believed they may have been planning another attack.
Trying to take him alive would have also been risky and may have cost lives of local troops, he said.
Lt Gen Jones said the SAS "planning team" would remain in Afghanistan working for ISAF, but he would not reveal further details about their activities.
Details of the attack on the insurgents aren't known but journalist Jon Stephenson, based in Kabul, told Radio New Zealand it was likely special forces were on the ground nearby and called in the air strike.