An attack on Australian soldiers in Afghanistan by a rogue Afghan National Army soldier in 2012 came without warning, an inquest has heard.
Australian army intelligence officers say they had no warning of the insider attack that killed three soldiers in Afghanistan.
A coronial inquest into the deaths of Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate has heard the army had no prior intelligence indicating the men’s platoon would be targeted by a rogue Afghan National Army soldier in August 2012.
Two intelligence officers told the Brisbane inquest on Tuesday the army was aware of a general threat from so-called green on blue attacks but had no reason to suspect the remote patrol base Wahab, in Oruzgan province, was particularly vulnerable.
The three soldiers were part of a 24-man mentoring mission when they were gunned down by an Afghan National Army sergeant named Hekmatullah inside the base on August 29, 2012.
“To my knowledge, and I’ve thought about this time and time again in the days after and to this very day, there was no information that raised concerns about intent on behalf of the ANA to attack our soldiers,” intelligence officer Captain Martin Wray told the inquest.
The court has previously heard a more junior intelligence officer assessed the threat level at Wahab as “high” two hours before the soldiers were killed, but the information wasn’t passed on.
The assessment was based on the layout at the base which made it impossible to separate Australian and Afghan soldiers.
Capt Wray said that had been a draft assessment that normally would have been reviewed and possibly modified before it was published.
“The product in draft form was issued – to my knowledge now – a couple of hours before, then we had three soldiers murdered,” he said.
“That commenced a flurry of activity in terms of trying to find where Sergeant Hekmatullah was and trying to garner what his motivations were.
“Basically the horse had bolted.”
A counter intelligence officer tasked with analysing the threat of insider attack in Oruzgan province said two hours before the soldiers were gunned down he’d highlighted concerns about a different patrol base.
Squadron Leader Darrel May said no red flags had been raised over Wahab and nothing had been known prior to the attack about Hekmatullah, who has links to the Taliban.
“We had absolutely no information about this guy at all,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Poate family’s lawyer told the inquest his grieving clients had no personal vendetta against any individual, following a social media backlash over the questioning of a witness.
A Facebook page called We Support Captain Dominic Lopez was set up after an emotional Capt Lopez, the dead soldiers’ commander, was forced to deny suggestions during cross examination that he hadn’t done his job properly.
“Whilst I appear for the Poate family, they should not be seen to be the source of any personal criticism of Capt Lopez,” Peter Bodor QC said.
“They understand his grief as much as anybody. Indeed they still hold him in the highest regard.”
The inquest continues.