NEW Zealand troops in Afghanistan are safer now Taliban warlord Abdullah Kalta has been killed, Prime Minister John Key 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, Mr Key said on Monday.
He was also linked with the ambush that killed Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell in August 2010.
Mr Key says intelligence indicated another attack was imminent.
“He was seen as a very significant figure and this puts our troops in a safer position,” Mr Key said at his post-cabinet press conference.
“The coalition airstrike was carried out on November 21st in the northeast of Bamyan province and resulted in the death of Abdullah Kalta and four other insurgents.
Initial reports said there were two other casualties but Mr Key says he has been told there were five, including Kalta.
New Zealand forces are based in Bamyan province and Mr Key sent SAS troops back to Afghanistan to gather intelligence and help with logistics after the roadside bomb attack.
“New Zealand builds the picture of where these people are, it builds the case that leads to the attack but the operations are carried out by ISAF,” he said.
“Intelligence almost certainly came through the SAS, that’s the sort of work they’ve been doing.”
Mr Key says ISAF was acting on information that another attack was imminent, but couldn’t give details of where or when.
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 airstrike.