An Afghan military defector who killed three Australian soldiers has been released from custody in Qatar and his whereabouts are unknown, officials said Monday (11/10).
The soldier known as Hekmatullah fled after shooting dead the three Australian soldiers and wounding two others at a base in 2012 and was sentenced to death in 2013.
“The government’s position has always been that Hekmatullah should serve a fair and proportionate sentence, in accordance with his crimes, and not be granted an early release or pardon,” an Australian government statement said.
Australian Armed Forces Commander General Angus Campbell told a Senate commission that the soldiers’ families were informed of Hekmatullah’s release.
Hugh Jeffrey, a Department of Defense international policy expert, told the commission Australia learned Hekmatullah had been released from Qatar after obtaining highly sensitive intelligence.’ Jeffrey did not know the reason for the release.
The Qatari government did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Associated Press.
Hekmatullah was transferred from Afghanistan to Qatar in September last year in a deal brokered by the United States ahead of peace talks between Afghanistan and the Taliban.
The oil-rich Arab country has been the site of negotiations between the US and the Taliban and the setting up of a representative office for the group that now controls Afghanistan. [ab/uh]