Thursday October 3 2013
– Elite Australian super spies made the breakthrough that led to the capture of a fugitive Taliban “sleeper” wanted for murdering three Diggers in a cold-blooded ambush.
Rogue Afghan soldier Sergeant Hekmatullah may face the death penalty for the shootings of Lance Corporal Stjepan “Rick” Milosevic, Sapper James Martin, and Private Robert Poate at Patrol Base Wahab in Afghanistan in August last year.
So secret was his capture in February, by Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, that the families of the dead Australian soldiers were notified of it only yesterday.
Announcing the development in Canberra yesterday the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, said the arrest “draws a line” under the four “insider” attacks on Australian personnel, which have so far killed seven Diggers and wounded 10.
General Hurley took the rare step of revealing the involvement of our most secretive intelligence bodies, including the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, the overseas-focused Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Defence Intelligence Organisation, and electronic spies at the Australian Signals Directorate.
Insiders said it was the ability of experts at the AGO to analyse imagery collected by satellites and unmanned aircraft; electronic data from the Signals Directorate; and human intelligence that was collected by ASIS spies operating along the Pakistan border and by special forces troops, which had finally tracked down the wanted Taliban insurgent.
Australian spies and special forces have been working closely with the US’s National Security Agency, CIA, and special forces, as well as Britain’s MI6 and SAS, to track down the murderer.
It is understood mobile phone intercepts, voice and facial recognition technology, drones and satellites were employed in the hunt.
AGO uses information from all the sources to establish a “geolocation”. Confirming the suspect’s whereabouts enabled Pakistan’s ISI agency to move in and arrest him.
The ISI had initial interrogation rights and that, as well as the need for positive identification and arrangements to extradite him to Afghanistan – which occurred on Tuesday – caused the delay in announcing his capture.
It is understood Hekmatullah is in the maximum security Afghan-run jail at Bagram air base, north of Kabul.
The news was greeted with joy by Pte Poate’s father, Hugh, who described the feeling as “wonderful”.
“Before Robbie left to go to Afghanistan I asked him about the insider attacks and the word he used was retribution.” And retribution is being dealt out here,” he said.
The three soldiers were shot dead as they played cards.
Mr Poate, of Canberra, said he wanted the Afghan treated as his son and mates had been: without mercy.
“It won’t bring the boys back but it is a great help to us,” Mr Poate said.
Seven Australians have been killed in “green on blue” insider attacks since May 2011. All the killers have now been killed or captured.
General Hurley also confirmed that under Afghan law, Hekmatullah would probably face the death penalty.
“Those responsible for the deaths of seven Australian soldiers and who wounded another 10 have been captured or killed and no longer pose a threat to our people.
– Ian McPhedran & Patrick Lion