The Chief of the NZ Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, has wholesale rejected Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s account of events in their book Hit & Run (read a summary of its contents here), saying NZ troops have never operated in the villages where, according to the book, at least six civilians were killed. Hager and Stephenson have responded in turn, saying the Defence Force claim is ‘incorrect and implausible’. Read both statements below …
NZDF: ‘It is evident there are some major inaccuracies’
The central premise of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book, Hit and Run, is incorrect, says the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating.
NZDF troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book as having been the scene of combat operations and civilian casualties.
Since the release of the book, the New Zealand Defence Force has spent considerable time reviewing the claims contained in it, despite the allegations of civilian casualties being the subject of a NATO investigation in 2010.
Upon review of Hit and Run, it is evident there are some major inaccuracies — the main one being the location and names of the villages where the authors claim civilians were killed and property was destroyed wilfully during a New Zealand-led operation.
The villages are named in the book as Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, but the NZDF can confirm that NZDF personnel have never operated in these villages.
The authors appear to have confused interviews, stories and anecdotes from locals with an operation conducted more than two kilometres to the south, known as Operation Burnham.
The villages in the Hager and Stephenson book and the settlement which was the site of Operation Burnham, called Tirgiran, are separated by mountainous and difficult terrain.
The NZDF has used the geographical references in the book and cross-referenced them with our own material.
During Operation Burnham, New Zealand was supported by coalition partners, which included air support capacity as previously reported.
The ISAF investigation determined that a gun sight malfunction on a coalition helicopter resulted in several rounds falling short, missing the intended target and instead striking two buildings.
This investigation concluded that this may have resulted in civilian casualties but no evidence of this was established.
Hit and Run does not prove civilian casualties were sustained in the village where Operation Burnham took place.
The NZDF reiterates its position that New Zealand personnel acted appropriately during this operation and were not involved in the deaths of civilians or any untoward destruction of property.
The NZDF welcomes anyone with information relevant to Operation Burnham to come forward and be assured that any allegations of offending by NZDF personnel would be taken seriously and investigated in accordance with our domestic and international legal obligations.
Hit and Run authors: ‘The NZDF response is bizarre’
Hit and Run co-authors Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson stand by the facts in their book. They say the NZDF response to the book issued on Sunday night is bizarre and a continuation of seven years of cover up. It seems, they said, to be nothing more than an attempt to squirt ink in the water.
“We are absolutely confident that an SAS raid took place on 22 August 2010 where six civilians were killed and another 15 injured. We know a dozen houses were destroyed as well. We have testimony about these events from members of the SAS, Afghan commandos and people living in the villages that were raided, Naik and Khak Khuday Dad. The SAS and villagers both talked about assaults on the same named people’s houses. It is actually impossible that the story is wrong.”
The NZDF press release is simply incorrect and implausible. To be true, it would require an identical raid by identical forces, using identical helicopters, on identical targets at the same time.
“We are shocked that the NZDF believes this is a legitimate reply to the serious and tragic revelations in the book. It looks like nothing more than people trying to evade responsibility and reinforces the need for a full and independent inquiry.”
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