Hit & Run: Map of Operation Burnham wrong - Afghan victims' lawyers
A map relied on by the New Zealand Defence Force to criticise explosive claims in a new book about raids on Afghan villages is wrong, the villagers claim.
Lawyers for the victims of the 2010 New Zealand SAS raid in which six civilians were killed and 15 injured have rebutted the Defence Force's claim they never operated in the area.
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Operation Burnham is the focus of Hit & Run by investigative journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, with growing calls for an independent inquiry into what happened. The Government is still refusing to commission one.
At a news conference on Monday, Defence Force chief Lieutenant-General Tim Keating produced a map of the area in which the book takes place.
He claimed the SAS never operated in the villages named in the book - Naik and Khak Khuday Dad - with Operation Burnham taking place two kilometres south of those settlements on August 22, 2010.
Prime Minister Bill English is continuing to back the Defence Force, saying they're the only ones with a "consistent story".
He isn't budging on his decision not to hold an inquiry into the confusion.
"You don't have an inquiry just because someone's decided to make allegations to sell a book. There needs to be some evidence war crims may have been committed and so far there's been no such evidence."
For a time, the Defence Force's new conference threw the books claims into doubt, but in a letter sent to Prime Minister Bill English and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, lawyer Richard McLeod sought to correct the map having shown it to the villagers.
The map labels the operation area as 'Tirgiran Village' in a red box, which the locals say does not exist. It is rather the Tirgiran Valley and Naik and Khak Khuday Dad are within that selected area.
The areas on the map labelled as Naik and Khak Khuday Dad are the wrong villages, the letter says.
"It is unclear to us whether the creation of this flawed document has been the result of misunderstanding, error or otherwise. However, it is plainly incorrect and unreliable. It must follow that so too are the conclusions which the NZDF seeks to draw from this map, namely that they have never operated in our clients' villages."
The letter says the error it is akin to claiming the operation "took place in 'Otago city', 'Waikato town' or 'Waitakere village'. It is plainly wrong to conflate an area into a village as the NZDF has done in this case".
"The flawed NZDF map and its derived conclusions therefore reinforce our view that it is untenable for the NZDF to assert that Operation Burnham was a separate operation on the night of August 22, 2010."
It says the revelation strengthens requests for an independent inquiry into the operation.
Hager admits they also mistook where the villages were, but says it does not change their central claims.
"It just appears that within this roadless, extremely isolated mountain area the place where we thought it was was slightly different to where it was," he told Newshub.
He wasn't sure how Defence managed to also get it wrong considering they have "vastly more map resources that we have".
"Nothing in the Defence presentation makes sense. They hoped they could knock us over by saying there was blurriness about the location where it happened, but they haven't answered any of the main allegations that have come out yet and for the people who are responsible for the troops that were there, it's just not good enough."
The authors on Wednesday issued a point-by-point rebuttal of Lt-Gen Keating's claims made during the news conference, calling each one incorrect except for their mistake on the villages' locations.