Troops in Afghanistan still hunting Australian soldier's killer: official

13:11, June 01, 2011      

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Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith on Wednesday said Australian and Afghan forces are still hunting for Afghan soldier who shot an Australian comrade four times at a patrol base in the Chora Valley.

On Monday, Lance Corporal Andrew Jones died shortly after being shot four times by a Afghanistan soldier, who was on duty in a guard tower at the time.

The soldier fled the scene and escaped despite being fired on by another member of the Afghan unit.

Roadblocks and checkpoints have been set up and compounds have been searched as Afghan and Australian soldiers mount a joint operation to track the killer down.

Smith dismissed suggestions that the Afghan soldier was an imposter or insurgent infiltrator.

He said the soldier had been training with Australian forces for "a number of months at least".

"This soldier was subject to all of the biometric identification tests so we don't believe we are dealing with an imposter or an infiltrator," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"We don't know whether there's been a dispute or disagreement between the two or what the motivation is. I think that's best left to an investigation."

The killing has shaken many Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, and the head of operations for the Afghan National Army's 4th Kandak (battalion) in Uruzgan, Colonel Abdul Qahar, said he hopes it will not destroy the working relationship between Afghan and Australian forces.

"We are extremely sad about this issue and we and our Australian friends are trying our best to prevent events like this in the future so it never happens again," he told ABC News on Wednesday.

Australian forces were currently training 3500 Afghan National Army soldiers in Oruzgan Province.

The death bring to 26 the number of Australian soldier dead in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001.

Source: Xinhua
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