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NZDF says Hager book has wrong villages

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/03/2017

The New Zealand Defence Force says its troops never went to the villages named in the book Hit and Run but they carried out an operation in another village where an investigation concluded there may have been casualties.

The book by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson released last Tuesday alleges Kiwi SAS troops were involved in raids in villages in Afghanistan that left six civilians dead and 15 wounded in 2010.

The book has sparked a call for an independent inquiry.

The Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, released a statement on Sunday evening after meeting with Prime Minister Bill English and Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee.

Leut Gen Keating says NZDF troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book.

Since the release of the book, the NZDF 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.

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 book and the settlement which was the site of Operation Burnham, called Tirgiran, are separated by mountainous and difficult terrain.

During Operation Burnham, New Zealand was supported by coalition partners, which included air support capacity as previously reported.

The International Security Assistance Force 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, he says.

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.

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