AUSTRALIAN special forces troops have killed a Taliban leader believed to have orchestrated the rocket attack that killed an Australian soldier in Afghanistan last weekend.
Private Gregory Sher, whose funeral will be held in Melbourne today, died when a rocket struck the remote patrol base in the Baluchi Valley of Afghanistan's restive Oruzgan Province where he and other special forces soldiers were harbouring.
Defence head Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, on a visit to troops in Afghanistan, said the special forces troops had just finished a successful operation that resulted in the death of a number of Taliban insurgents and the capture of two.
Unfortunately it also resulted in the death of Private Sher, the eighth Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan.
As a member of the part-time 1 Commando Regiment, he was also the first reservist to die in Afghanistan.
In an impassioned speech, Air Chief Marshal Houston told special forces soldiers gathered in the dining area at their base in Tarin Kowt: "It is quite clear you made them pay for the death of a comrade.''
He praised them for continuing the operation in a completely professional manner, showing great distinction, courage and teamwork, despite this tragedy.
"The results they achieved were nothing short of spectacular,'' he said later.
Air Chief Marshal Houston said it had been confirmed that one of those killed in the operation was a prominent and long-hunted Taliban leader from the Baluchi region.
"They actually got the leader who we think orchestrated all of this,'' he said.
"They went into an area this guy was the leader. They got him.''
Australian special forces have killed or captured more than a dozen Taliban leaders in the province in the past six months.
Air Chief Marshal Houston said the Australian special forces team were having a significant impact on the province.
"Last year the violent incidents went up right acoss Afghanistan. The only province where there was a reduction in violent incidents was in Oruzgan. We were against the trend,'' he said.
Commander of Australian forces in the Middle East Major General Mike Hindmarsh said the special operations task group had been operating in Oruzgan since 2005, disrupting Taliban operations by targeting the leaders and bomb makers.
He said most of the top leaders had now fled to Pakistan.
"They know it is just too dangerous to operate in that part of the world,'' he said.
"Our aim is to keep whacking them and disabuse them of the notion that they can exist there at all.''
|Liveleak on Facebook|