In Aug 29, 2012, Lance Corporal (LCPL) Stjepan Milosevic of 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment, Queensland Mounted Infantry, Sapper (SPR) James Martin of 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment and Private (PTE) Robert Poate of 6th Battalion of The Royal Australian Regiment were murdered while serving on a mentoring mission with the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment Task Group (3RAR TG).
Through a press conference, the Vice Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, made the public know the circumstances surrounding the death of the three soldiers.
Through a report of the Inquiry Officer, it was found out that the three soldiers were shot by an Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier, Former Sergeant (SGT) Hekmatullah. Hekmatullah fired from close range into the Australian administration area inside Patrol Base Wahab.
It was also found out that there were three ADF members who failed to observe the minimum level of security.
The Inquiry Officer made 22 findings and six recommendations.
Key points of the inquiry report:
- Although the platoon had sufficient resources to provide the minimum level of force protection to meet ISAF and 3 RAR Task Group requirements, the decisions made at Patrol Base Wahab were not appropriate given the local circumstances at that time.
- It is not possible to make a link between our force protection arrangements and the reason for the insider attack.
- There were no weaknesses or deficiencies in our intelligence preparation and no information available to Australian or Coalition forces to suggest that Sgt Hekmatullah was a threat to the Australians.
- The Inquiry Officer made six recommendations. Defence has agreed to all.
- Four recommendations relate to possible administrative action against three ADF members. The Chief of the Defence Force has referred these recommendations to the Chief of Army for his consideration. Under the restrictions of the Privacy Act 1988, it is not appropriate to provide details of any administrative action taken or contemplated against ADF personnel.
- A fifth recommendation concerning the incident response capability has been implemented.
- The final recommendation was that a Commission of Inquiry is not warranted.
However, based on the evidences gathered, the Inquiry Officer was unable to prove or disprove if failure of the platoon's force protection arrangements directly or indirectly created an opportunity for Sgt Hekmatullah to kill the three soldiers. The ADF or ISAf were also not aware of any intelligence reports or threats existing at Patrol Base Wahab prior to the killing of the three ADF soldiers.
Air Marshal Binskin said that the recommendation made by the Inquiry Officer and agreed upon with the force are to be implemented on April 2013.
"Australia would continue to work with ISAF and our Afghan partners to find former SGT Hekmatullah who fled the patrol base immediately after the attack. Let me assure you we will not let this go. I would like to emphasise that we will not waver in our commitment to bring former SGT Hekmatullah to justice," Air Marshal Binskin stated.
The ADF requested for the media to respect the privacy of the soldiers' families.
"Although this report does not change the fact that the families of LCPL Milosevic, SPR Martin, and PTE Poate have lost a son, a brother, a husband or a father, it has served its purpose in finding out the facts of the incident," Air Marshal Binskin added.
Read the full inquiry report.
Read the transcript of the press conference by Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin.
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