NZSAS Afghanistan raid sources would speak to inquiry - Jon Stephenson
Prime Minister Bill English is not ruling out launching an inquiry into allegations that the New Zealand SAS killed civilians in Afghanistan in August 2010.
"We're not going to be rushed into starting a new inquiry," he said on Wednesday morning.
Mr English says he has little detail at the moment - and the only advice he has had so far from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is their public statement sent out on Tuesday evening.
He says the statement "makes it clear that the allegations have been looked into previously by the Afghan Government and the coalition forces in Afghanistan, and they're satisfied that New Zealand Defence personnel acted according to the rules of engagement."
"I'll be meeting with officials this afternoon, taking the opportunity to get advice about the background to the previous inquiry and whether there's anything new in the book," Mr English said.
The NZDF statement responds to allegations made in Hit and Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour, a book released on Tuesday by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson.
The book alleges the SAS killed six civilians and injured 15 more during a raid on two isolated villages in Tirgiran Valley, Baghlan, Afghanistan on August 22 2010.
The NZDF stands by a previous statement made in April 2011, that an investigation was conducted after the operation by a joint Afghan Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assessment team.
"The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded," the statement said.
The book's authors claim the Tirgiran raid was a retaliation against the killing of 26-year-old soldier Tim O'Donnell on August 3.
They allege that then-Prime Minister John Key was briefed about the raid and then-chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Jerry Mateparae watched the operation from an SAS operations room in Kabul.
"Within 24 to 48 hours of the raid, NZ military staff knew for sure that their operation had killed civilians and failed to capture the insurgents they were supposed to be pursuing," the authors claim.
When asked if he would speak to Mr Key about the allegations, Mr English said he didn't plan to.
"I don't think that's appropriate. He's leaving politics and as the Prime Minister it's my role to take account of these matters."
Jonathan Coleman, who was Minister of Defence from 2011 to 2014, told Newshub on Wednesday morning: "These issues have all been dealt with previously, you can rule out New Zealanders being responsible for any deaths, they weren't. Can't rule out that people died at the hands of other forces."
Earlier on Wednesday Mr Stephenson told The AM Show he was extremely confident in the book's sources, and was certain that the NZSAS led the raid.
"We certainly know the SAS led the raid, they had command responsibility, they planned it, they got the intelligence," he said.
What needs to be revealed, he says, is if Kiwi soldiers killed any of the civilians.
Stephenson says all their evidence shows the US military were responsible for the killings, but there is "some suggestion" one of the people that was shot was killed by New Zealand SAS snipers.
"That needs to be clarified. He had bullet wounds so it appears not wounds consistent with a helicopter gunship."
He added that he was sure some of the book's sources would give evidence in a formal inquiry.
"If there were to be an inquiry, we believe our sources would come forward and give evidence on oath that would certainly confirm what we said," he says.
"They are concerned about punishment, they are concerned about retribution, but what we're saying is if there were to be legal protection in a formal inquiry. Some of them we're quite sure would give evidence on oath."
Hager and Stephenson are calling for a full and independent inquiry into the raid, and the operations and incidents outlines in the book. They also call for the Government to offer an apology and reparations to the people affected in the Afghan villages.