MONDAY AUG 10
An Afghan soldier who murdered three Australian soldiers while serving as a sergeant in the Afghan National Army is likely to walk free in a prisoner swap deal.
Hekmatullah, as he’s known, has spent seven years in jail after murdering Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate in August 2012.
The trio of Australians were playing cards at their base at Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province, when the rogue soldier turned on them — killing them, and injuring two other Australians.
Officials from the Department of Defence contacted the families of the three Australians on Friday, advising them it was likely Hekmatullah would be one of 5,000 prisoners released as part of peace negotiations between the Afghan Government and the Taliban.
Sapper James Martin (left), Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, and Private Robert Poate (right), were killed while playing cards in Afghanistan.(Australian Defence Force)
Hekmatullah is one of 400 prisoners considered to be “extreme cases” that were still being considered by Afghanistan’s Tribal Council, the loya jirga, for release.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds have for several months raised the Australian Government’s desire for Hekmatullah to remain behind bars, since it became clear he could be part of the prisoner swap deal.
Over the weekend, government sources have confirmed Senator Payne and Senator Reynolds were still lobbying for his ongoing detention.
The peace negotiations are being steered by the United States, with the prisoner swap pact a key part of the talks.
Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo conceded the release of the prisoners was “unpopular”.
“But this difficult action will lead to an important result long sought by Afghans and Afghanistan’s friends: reduction of violence and direct talks resulting in a peace agreement and an end to the war,” he said.
“After 40 years of war and bloodshed and destruction, the parties are ready to embark on a political process to reach a negotiated settlement.”
Three Sydney schools have been closed and several students told to self-isolate after a string of positive coronavirus cases.
There are three cases connected to the Tangara School for Girls in Cherrybrook, in Sydney’s north west.
The campus and will be closed until next Friday.
Bonnyrigh Heights Public School in south-west Sydney and Our Lady of Mercy College at Parramatta, west of the city, were also closed due to confirmed infections.
Meanwhile, Queensland has recorded one new case of coronavirus overnight, a person who travelled from overseas and is in hotel quarantine.
It brings the state’s total to 1,089 with 11 of those cases active.
Tough restrictions at aged care facilities introduced across South East Queensland in response to the outbreak in Logan will now be lifted.
Chief Health Officer, Jeannette Young, said the new case was acquired overseas.
“So that is really good news,” she said.
“No community transmission in Queensland.
“So that means that we can safely reopen our aged care facilities to visitors again.
“We still need to be very cautious, very careful at all times, because our aged care facilities have the most vulnerable people in our society living in them.
“The one aged care facility that we can’t open yet is that one in north Brisbane — at Pinjarra Hills.
“It needs to stay closed for another 1.5 days until we have confirmation that that potential outbreak is over.”
Torrential rain has forced residents in low-lying NSW South Coast communities to evacuate their homes while hundreds of calls for help were made to State Emergency Services (SES) in Sydney.
Up to 300 millimetres of rain fell in some areas at the weekend and while it eased this morning, swollen rivers continue to pose significant risks.
The SES yesterday issued urgent evacuation orders to Shoalhaven communities, including the Moruya CBD and Sussex Inlet.
“We’ve asked people to self-evacuate so we can’t actually get numbers, but there have been quite a few properties from the Sussex Inlet area and a range of properties around the Shoalhaven River as well,” SES spokesperson David Webber said.
The SES responded to hundreds of calls for help over the weekend.(Supplied: NSW SES)
The SES said of the 840 calls for help received in the past 24 hours, about 400 came from Sydney residents.
Most of the 36 rescues since Friday night — six of which occurred overnight — were from cars driving into flood waters.
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