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Government likely to follow NZDF's lead

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 21/03/2017

The government is still to respond to allegations SAS soldiers killed civilians in Afghanistan, and when it does it's likely to take the same line as the Defence Force.

A book written by investigative journalist Nicky Hager and war correspondent Jon Stephenson, released in Wellington on Tuesday, claims New Zealand's SAS soldiers led an operation launched in August 2010.

It was in response to the death of New Zealand soldier Tim O'Donnell, killed by a roadside bomb, and targeted the insurgents responsible.

According to the book, titled Hit and Run, the operation went horribly wrong and six civilians were killed and 15 injured when two villages were fired on.

None of the insurgents were killed.

The authors want an inquiry, but late on Tuesday night the Defence Force said that wasn't going to happen.

It referred to a statement it issued in 2011 which said that following the operation, allegations of civilian casualties were made.

"These were investigated by a joint Afghan Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and International Security Assistance Force assessment team, in accordance with ISAF procedures," it said.

"The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded."

The Defence Force said it didn't undertake investigations or inquiries into the actions of forces from other nations - that was the role of the joint Afghan-ISAF investigation.

"The NZDF is confident that New Zealand personnel conducted themselves in accordance with the applicable rules of engagement," it said.

At the time of the raids, the government said it was confident there had been no civilian casualties.

The book gives a detailed account of the raids and their aftermath.

The authors say their information came from various sources, including inside the SAS.

Mr Hager said at the launch there were two possibilities - either the government had misled the public or the military had not told the government the truth.

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