You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

PM criticised for ruling out SAS inquiry

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/04/2017

Bill English © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Bill English Prime Minister Bill English is facing criticism for deciding not to hold an inquiry into allegations SAS troops were involved in civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

Mr English announced on Monday there wouldn't be an investigation into claims made in the book Hit and Run because he didn't believe there was evidence Afghan villagers died during the operation in 2010.

The authors, war correspondent Jon Stephenson and investigative reporter Nicky Hager, claimed six civilians were killed - two by SAS ground forces and four by US helicopter gunships - and 15 were injured during an attack on two villages.

The NZDF says troops were never in the villages named in the book and Operation Burnham took place about two kilometres away, resulting in nine insurgents being killed.

It has acknowledged there may have been civilian casualties caused by a helicopter gun fault.

Mr English has seen a video of the operation and he's been briefed by the chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating.

"There is no room for doubt about the basic facts of what happened... I am satisfied there is no evidence of civilian casualties," he said.

Mr Hager says Mr English's decision is disappointing and concerning.

"He has joined the people trying to hide and dodge over what happened," he said.

"This does not appear to be a rational decision based on evidence, it is helping the military bureaucracy avoid having to front up - it is the next step in the seven year cover-up."

Labour leader Andrew Little says the need for an inquiry remains.

"Bill English has again failed to do the right thing... if there was a chance that there were civilian casualties then we need to get to the bottom of it," he said.

"The accounts depicted by the Defence Force and the writers of Hit and Run present two very different viewpoints - somewhere in the middle is the truth."

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon