Qatar releases Afghan soldier who killed three Australians

By The Associated Press

Canberra: An Afghan army fugitive who killed three Australian soldiers was released from custody in Qatar and his whereabouts were not known, officials said on Monday.

The soldier, known as Hekmatullah, fled in 2012 after shooting dead Australian soldiers and injuring two others and was sentenced to death in 2013.

“It has always been the position of the Government that Hekmatullah should be given a fair and proportionate punishment for his crimes, and should not be given an early release or pardon,” an Australian government statement said.

Defense Force Chief General Angus Campbell told a Senate committee that the soldiers’ families had been informed of Hetmarullah’s release.

Defense Department international policy expert Hugh Jeffrey told the committee that Australia found Hekmatullah had been released “from Qatar through highly sensitive intelligence”. Jeffrey did not know the circumstances of the release.

The Qatari government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hekmatullah was transferred from Afghanistan to Qatar in September last year in a deal negotiated by the United States ahead of peace talks between Afghanistan and the Taliban.

The energy-rich Arab nation has been the site of talks between the US and the Taliban and has hosted an office for the group that now controls Afghanistan.

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