'Hit and Run' Afghanistan raid: NZDF concedes 'suspected' civilian death
The Defence Force has admitted for the first time there was a suspected civilian casualty during a 2010 raid in Afghanistan.
It's a stark difference to its previous position that allegations of civilian casualties were "unfounded".
Chief of the Defence Force Tim Keating has been off the grid for the fallout of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson's book, Hit and Run, but on Sunday was summoned to the Prime Minister's office for a "please explain". What he has to make clear is whether civilians died during an SAS led raid in Afghanistan.
The waters muddied on Sunday after official information came to light acknowledging a suspected civilian death.
Official information released just last week from the Defence Force says: "The 2010 raid in Baghlan involved a suspected civilian casualty."
But on Sunday the Defence Force was sticking to its guns, saying it stands by the statement made in 2011 that "...the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded".
Mr Stephenson has been investigating this for years and now he says it's time for the Government to investigate too.
"It's pretty clear to me that the evidence that civilians died is overwhelming," he says.
"I think the case for an inquiry is overwhelming and I think it would be political suicide if the Government didn't call one."
Mr Stephenson says since the book's release, he's been contacted by another SAS soldier who has confirmed six civilians were killed during that raid - two of them by the SAS.
"I believe Defence Minister Wayne Mapp [and] Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman after him, Prime Minister John Key and Prime Minister Bill English are all being misled and have been misled as to what happened on those raids."
Neither the Prime Minister nor the Defence Chief would talk on Sunday, with the Defence Force saying it had nothing further to add to the statement it made on the night the book was released.
"Now hearing that the NZDF have acknowledged that there was suspicion around there being civilian casualties is yet another reason why we need an independent inquiry," Labour deputy leader Jacinda Ardern says.