Hit & Run Afghanistan raid: NZDF denies operating in named villages
The Chief of the Defence Force has refuted claims that civilians were killed in Afghanistan, saying the Defence Force never even went to the villages at the centre of the book's allegations.
Lieutenant General Tim Keating says there are "major inaccuracies" in the book Hit and Run, released this week by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson.
"Upon review of Hit & Run, it is evident there are some major inaccuracies - the main one being the location and names of the villages where the authors claim civilians were killed and property was destroyed wilfully during a New Zealand-led operation," he said in a statement on Sunday night.
"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 book claimed that six civilians were killed in a "revenge" raid in 2010 after New Zealand soldier Tim O'Donnell was killed.
One of those said to be killed during a New Zealand led raid was three-year-old Fatima.
Mr Stephenson rejected NZDF's claims, telling Newshub: "I don't think there's any substational rebuttal of the central claims in the book at all."
But Lt Gen Keating said the authors were "confused" and all activity undertaken by the Defence Force at that time, dubbed "Operation Burnham", was located more than two kilometres south.
"The villages in the Hager and Stephenson book and the settlement which was the site of Operation Burnham, called Tirgiran, are separated by mountainous and difficult terrain," he said.
"The NZDF has used the geographical references in the book and cross-referenced them with our own material."
Mr Stephenson said they still stand by the book.
"Their own documents said what the targets were and where the targets were," he said.
"It's just nonsense to say they weren't in the village. Many people have told us they were there - the villagers have told us, the Afghan commanders on the operation, members of the SAS unit that were stationed in Kabul told us, the Independent Human Rights Commission report... it's bizarre, to be honest."
The Defence Chief concedes that some civilians still may have died at the hands of other forces during the Burnham operation.
"The ISAF 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," Lt Gen Keating said.
"This investigation concluded that this may have resulted in civilian casualties but no evidence of this was established."
Mr Stephenson said NZDF's statement was "confused and inaccurate" and is calling for them to be up front about what may have occurred.
"We've been approached by people who have given us... all of the central details, they haven't contested or rebutted," he said.
"Do you think it would've taken them a week to find out [NZDF] hadn't operated in that village? Of course not."
Lt Gen Keating reiterated the Defence Force's position that New Zealanders weren't responsible for any civilian deaths and played by the rules of war.
"Hit & Run does not prove civilian casualties were sustained in the village where Operation Burnham took place."