Defence Force U-turn: Hit and Run location was accurate

Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson at the release of their book.
Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson at the release of their book. Photo credit: Newshub.

The Defence Force has admitted photos of an Afghan village published in Hit and Run show the location of an SAS raid conducted in 2010 - but it continues to deny six civilians, including a three-year-old, were killed and 15 others injured.

That's starkly different to what the Defence Force said after the book's release.

At the time, Defence Force Chief Tim Keating claimed the SAS never operated in the locations outlined in the book. 

One of the book's authors, investigative journalist Jon Stephenson, told Newshub Mr Keating should resign or be fired for either deliberately or inadvertently misleading the public.

"It was very clear to anyone with half a brain that the incident we were talking about was precisely the same incident the NZDF was involved in.

"I think it's a disgrace it's taken a year to admit what everyone knew. I think [Keating] should either be sacked or resign," Mr Stephenson told Newshub.

"I've learnt that it's very difficult to trust anything the NZ Defence Force says on these sensitive matters."

Hit and Run alleges the NZ Defence Force took part in a night-time raid on a village, during which civilians were targeted and property deliberately destroyed.

The book's second author, investigative journalist Nicky Hager, says the Defence Force used a mistake in two of the book's illustrations "to say that the whole book was wrong".

"I believe that the impulse to hide the NZDF's mistakes led the Chief of Defence Force knowingly to mislead the media and the public," Mr Hager said in a press release on Monday.

The document released by the Defence Force says it's possible ammunition fired from a coalition helicopter "had fallen short of its target" and hit two buildings. As a result, a report from ISAF/Afghanistan Government found"civilian casualties may have occurred." That's not new information - Mr Keating has previously admitted civilians may have been killed by misfired American Apache rounds.

The document also says the NZDF fired two shots, killing one insurgent, as has been previously stated by the Defence Force.

It claims a house that was described as "blown up" in the book was not deliberately set on fire. "Explosive entry was used. The NZSAS ground force did not deliberately set fire to any houses or personal possessions," it claims.

It also refutes claims a detainee was beaten before being transferred to authorities known to use torture. "No evidence of any ill-treatment [of Qari Miraj] was observed by the Medical Officer or recorded in the photographs," the Defence Force document says.

Last year, Labour, New Zealand First and the Green Party all called for an independent investigation into the claims made in Hit and Run. 

Attorney-General David Parker is due to make a decision about the inquiry within the next few weeks.

At Parliament on Monday, a petition signed by 4000 people calling for an independent inquiry was presented.

Delegation spokesperson Dr Carl Bradley said the group suspect the Government is under pressure from Defence not to hold an inquiry. 

"But if we want a Defence Force with integrity, there needs to be a full, open and independent inquiry when things go wrong," he said.