‘This is a stain on our country that needs to be sorted out’ – Nicky Hager calls for inquiry over claims civilians died in operation by Kiwi SAS troops

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Author Nicky Hager has hit out at the New Zealand Defence Force statement that rubbishes his allegation Afghanistan civilians were killed in a New Zealand SAS raid.

The investigative journalist yesterday released his new book called Hit & Run in which he claims former Prime Minister John Key signed off on a raid by the SAS in Afghanistan that was in retaliation to a Kiwi soldier’s death.

He claims six civilian villagers were killed and 15 injured in the raid and alleges that the SAS burnt up or blew up about a dozen houses. Mr Key has yet to respond to the allegations.

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Mr Hager told Breakfast this morning the information on the raid had been “locked down” by Defence Force authorities, and called for an inquiry.

It was only when Mr Hager and co-author Jon Stephenson were approached by members of the SAS and others who felt “guilty” they became aware of what happened, he said.

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The operation happened after New Zealand soldier Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell was killed in an incident in Afghanistan in August 2010.

The allegation by Hager and Stephenson is that 19 days after that, SAS troops conducted a raid effectively in retaliation for that to try and find the insurgents responsible.

Mr Hager alleged the operation went wrong due to “rage, rashness and lack of care” taken by members of the SAS.

“They blew up houses, they burnt down houses. This is not how NewZealand military normally works,” he alleged.

Mr Hager said he and his co-author had been in contact with families of those who had apparently been injured or killed.

“This is a stain on our country that needs to be sorted out,” he said.

“It’s time New Zealand finally faces up to this and apologises.”

“The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded”

Mr Hager’s response came after the New Zealand Defence Force released a statement, which said, “New Zealand personnel conducted themselves in accordance with the applicable rules of engagement.”

It stood by a 2011 statement which read, “following the operation, allegations of civilian casualties were made. These were investigated by a joint Afghan Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assessment team, in accordance with ISAF procedures.

“The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded.”

It said the Defence Force does not, “undertake investigations or inquiries into the actions of forces from other nations”, as it was the role of the Afghan-ISAF investigations, after Mr Hager asked for an investigation into the incident.

He questioned whether the New Zealand Defence Force were aware of his claims after the response from its statement released.

“Maybe they haven’t been told the truth,” Mr Hager alleged.