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Hold Afghan inquiry to stop rumours: Dunne

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/03/2017

The New Zealand Defence Force have released more maps to counter claims SAS forces carried out raids on Naik and Khak Khuday Dad in Afghanistan in August 2010.

Detailed maps in the book Hit and Run, by war correspondent Jon Stephenson and investigative reporter Nicky Hager, mark the exact homes they say were destroyed by NZDF forces in Operation Burnham and those of the six civilians they claim were killed.

Since the book's launch last Tuesday the authors conceded they might have got the location of the villages within the Tirgiran valley wrong after Defence Force chief, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, said on Monday the SAS never visited those villages but did carry out an attack on Tirgiran village, more than two kilometres away.

NZDF on Thursday released maps pinpointing the homes they say were raided, and accidentally set alight.

The NZDF maps also set out different helicopter landing sites.

"None of the houses identified in [Hit and Run] were destroyed by NZDF or coalition members," the maps note.

"Only positively identified armed insurgents were targeted. No personnel were targeted at any of the locations identified [in Hit and Run]."

Mr Hager and Mr Stephenson maintain that confusion over the location of the villages shouldn't detract from the civilian casualties.

Earlier United Future leader Peter Dunne speculated perhaps the new Zealand government didn't want to expose that the United States was more explicitly involved than previously speculated.

But he said that was just a supposition and there needed to be an inquiry to rumours and theories becoming the "new unshakeable truth".

Mr Dunne said the SAS had built up a highly deserved reputation and reluctance to hold an inquiry was "puzzling".

"The only thing we know for certain is that something happened, somewhere, sometime. Beyond that the rest is speculation," he said on Thursday.

"It is reminiscent of Churchill's comment on truth and rumour: 'A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on'."

Mr Dunne said if the New Zealand Defence Force was confident of its account of Operation Burnham there would be no reason to hide from an inquiry.

The NZDF claims nine insurgents were killed during the operation targeting Taliban insurgent leaders responsible for the roadside bomb that killed Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell earlier that month.

Lieutenant General Tim Keating admitted this week that it was possible civilians had been killed when a helicopter gunship misfired and rounds struck a building where there may have been civilians, though casualties were never confirmed.

Prime Minister Bill English has not ruled out an inquiry but said he wouldn't be rushed into a decision.

Labour leader Andrew Little, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and the Green Party have also called for an independent inquiry.

Wayne Mapp, who was defence minister at the time, said a diplomatic approach to the Afghan government to uncover the truth and acknowledge any deaths might be a better option.

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