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A minute silence for the fallen during the memorial service for the five Diggers at Tarin Kot, Afghanistan. Picture: Sgt W. Guthrie/1st Joint Public Affairs Unit

An insider who helped a rogue Afghan soldier murder three Diggers has been captured.

The International Security Assistance Force said yesterday Australian and Afghan troops hunting Sgt Hek Matullah, who shot dead Lance-Cpl Stjepan Milosevic, 40, Sapper James Martin, 21, and Pte Robert Poate, 23, at a patrol base on Wednesday, had captured "a key facilitator".

He was caught along with 11 others in a raid on Friday in southern Oruzgan province. Two insurgents were killed.

The ISAF said the operation was planned and executed in co-ordination with Afghan officials, including approval by the provincial governor.

The other 11 detainees were later released but the deaths during the raid sparked the anger of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who called it a "unilateral operation" and claimed it breached an agreement with NATO.

Afghan authorities claimed that tribal elder Raz Mohammad Khan, 70, and his son Abdul Jalil, 30, had no ties to insurgents.

But the Defence Department said the two dead men "were both positively identified as taking direct part in hostilities and were engaged in accordance with the rules of engagement".

The US military is suspending training of newly recruited Afghan soldiers amid the rising number of attacks by local troops turning on their allies.

In an unprecedented effort, US officials are reportedly re-vetting more than 27,000 Afghan National Army troops for links to the Taliban and insurgent warlords.

The Defence Department did not respond to _The West Australian _last night about whether the Australian military was considering a similar move with the Afghan troops being mentored by our forces.

The three Diggers were among five Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan last week - the nation's darkest day in combat since the Vietnam War - sparking renewed debate about Australia's involvement in Afghanistan.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr said troops needed to stay in Afghanistan to ensure the country could never again be used as a base for terrorist attacks on the West.

"No one wants to be there in this very difficult war, this unpopular war, a day longer than we need to be," he said.

"The choice here is between a planned phased withdrawal and a sudden rush to get out that would be very disruptive."

The fallen Diggers, including West Australians Lance-Cpl Mervyn McDonald and Sapper Martin, were farewelled by soldiers at the Tarin Kowt base yesterday in an emotional ceremony on their journey to their final resting place.

Lance-Cpl McDonald, 30, and Pte Nathanael Galagher, 23, were killed when the US Black Hawk helicopter they were in crashed during a mission on Thursday.

Seven Diggers have now died in so-called "friendly" attacks.

The Gillard Government has announced the bulk of Australia's 1500 troops in Afghanistan will be withdrawn by the end of 2014.

With AAP

The West Australian

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