New Zealand Defence Force deny Afghan raid accusations

Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force Lt Gen Tim Keating has restated his claim that the defence force never entered the villages named in Hit & Run, but says civilians may have been killed.

"Those casualties mentioned in the book or the names mentioned in book are from two villages to the north that we have not visited, we have no knowledge of those villages," Lt Gen Keating said on Monday afternoon.

He said Operation Burnham took place two kilometres to the south of the villages named in the book on August 22 in 2010.

"A significant number of insurgents were killed during Operation Burnham," Mr Keating said.

There were nine insurgents killed, however he says "We do not have the names". He says the Defence Force has classified footage of the operation.

Lt Gen Keating says there "may have been" civilian casualties, and if there were it would be due to the mechanical failure of a weapon on an American apache helicopter. 

He said SAS on the ground also fired two shots, killing one insurgent. 

He said it was not a revenge mission after the killing of New Zealand soldier Lieutenant 
Tim O'Donnell. "Revenge was never a driver, we are a professional force. Our primary concern was the security of our people."

When asked how he could be sure that those killed were insurgents he said "under the rules of engagement they were engaged as meeting the criteria of insurgents that threatened the operation."

He said the actions of the Defence Force were outsanding.

"What actually happened during Operation Burnham was that in all respects the conduct by the New Zealand armed forces was exemplary."

Lt Gen Keating said the raid had been fully investigated and there was no further case to answer.

He said an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) investigation in 2010 found that the SAS had followed the law of armed conflict.

"It is not in our interests to push stuff under the carpet." 

NZDF legal services director Colonel Lisa Ferris said there was no concern about the raid under the laws of armed conflict.

Col Ferris said the NZDF has an obligation to investigate accusations that are "well founded".

She said the possibility of civilian casualties does not mean that a crime has occurred.

Earlier on Monday Hit & Run co-author Nicky Hager questioned whether Mr Keating was denying everything in the book, or was trying to spread doubt by disputing the villages in question.

"Our book contains hundreds of carefully researched facts, compiled during two years of meetings with New Zealand defence sources and the Afghan villagers. If Tim Keating believes some of that is wrong, he needs to front up with proof, not confusing diversions."

"We call on him to justify his claims by releasing uncensored versions of the main operational documents from the 22 August 2010 raid."