Kiwi soldiers tied dead enemies to trucks - report

After the battle in which Willie Apiata earned his Victoria Cross, Kiwi soldiers rolled into a nearby Afghan village with dead Taliban soldiers tied to the front of their trucks, it has been claimed.

A new report by the Stuff Circuit team claims in 2004, New Zealand forces rolled into a village and accused bemused locals of being members of the Taliban.

Two villagers who were there told Stuff Circuit life since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 had been peaceful, so when foreign forces turned up on that day in 2004, people were curious and gathered around the military vehicles.

"And then they started insulting people and using foul language, saying: 'You are Taliban and you are helping the Taliban,'" the report claims.

They reportedly insulted women and the elderly, then said: "You guys are Taliban and we will come back again tomorrow...We haven't finished with you.'"

  • Watch Stuff Circuit's documentary The Valley on Three at 9:30pm, Monday night

That night there was a battle outside the village, and the next day six Kiwi vehicles allegedly rolled back into the village with bodies tied to the front.

The bodies, which belonged to Afghans, were reportedly dumped in the bazaar as the soldiers fanned out through the village.

More than a dozen locals were reportedly tied up at gunpoint.

"They held me by my arms and flexi-cuffed my hands behind my back and sat me facing the wall. One guy was guarding me, pointing his gun to me saying 'Don't turn your face,'" one villager told Stuff Circuit.

"I was thinking that they will take me to their tank and will take me away."

After finding nothing linking the villagers to the Taliban or the insurgency, the Kiwi soldiers left about half-an-hour later.

The report puts into doubt the official story of how Cpl Apiata earned his Victoria Cross, which states the New Zealanders were attacked by insurgents. Military sources told Stuff Circuit the SAS used a strategy called "bait and hook" to draw their enemies into a fight - and the visit to the village earlier that day was part of it.

However, those sources said they did not question Cpl Apiata's courage, nor were they suggesting he didn't deserve the VC.

'We're proud of the NZDF'

Prime Minister Bill English told The AM Show on Monday morning he didn't know the "particular details around the battles" covered in the Stuff Circuit report, which also revealed new details about the 2012 battle in which two Kiwi soldiers died.

"What I do know is that New Zealand made a decision back in 2001, 2002 to go to Afghanistan. We were there a long time, tragically lost a number of lives there.

"But at all times our Defence Force has been dealing with very risky situations in a professional manner at the same time as making a big contribution to getting schools up and going, assisting villages to reorganise themselves after conflict, so we're proud of the NZDF. They did have to deal with some pretty difficult situations.

"Our Defence Forces are professionals, they were in Afghanistan for a long time, making a very significant contribution and of course, in an unpredictable conflict like that, there are going to be some decisions that have to be made under pressure.

"Some lives were lost, that's tragic for the families. I attended one of the funerals myself, so I know the grief that caused, in the service of our country."

Paula Penfold.
Paula Penfold. Photo credit: The AM Show

Paula Penfold, one of the journalists behind the Stuff Circuit report, told The AM Show official reports of both battles are wrong.

"When we went to the Shikari Valley - which the NZ military investigators never did do - and we talked the Afghan soldiers - which again, the Court of Inquiry didn't do - we found the conclusion reached by our Court of Inquiry were wrong."

She says Afghan investigators " were able to visit the very next day after the battle, and it does raise questions as to why New Zealand investigators didn't. Their perspective was crucial."

Ms Penfold, who has been investigating the allegations for three years, says the NZDF shouldn't be so secretive about what it's doing in Afghanistan.

"We hope that at some point in the coming weeks they will front up and be interviewed."

Most of the details, she says, came from Kiwi soldiers themselves who want the true story to be told.