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Thread: SAS never operated in the two villages: NZDF hits back

  1. #1

    SAS never operated in the two villages: NZDF hits back

    SAS never operated in the two villages: NZDF hits back at claims in book about Afghanistan raid

    8:49 PM Sunday Mar 26, 2017

    Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating released a statement tonight saying NZDF personnel never operated in the villages named in the book Hit & Run.

    The NZ Defence Force has hit back at "major inaccuracies" in claims about an NZSAS raid in Afghanistan - saying its troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book Hit & Run.

    Chief of Defence Force, Lietenant General Tim Keating, released a statement tonight after meeting with Prime Minister Bill English amidst calls for an inquiry into the raid after the release of Hit & Run, by journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson.

    NZDF said it can confirm its personnel have never operated in the villages named in the book as Naik and Khak Khuday Dad.

    "The authors appear to have confused interviews, stories and anecdotes from locals with an operation conducted more than two kilometres to the south, known as Operation Burnham," the NZDF statement said.

    "The villages in the Hager and Stephenson book and the settlement which was the site of Operation Burnham, called Tirgiran, are separated by mountainous and difficult terrain. The NZDF has used the geographical references in the book and cross-referenced them with our own material."

    The NZDF said that during Operation Burnham New Zealand was supported by coalition partners, which included air support capacity as previously reported.

    After the raid an investigation by the Interior and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) found that a malfunctioning gun sight on a coalition helicopter resulted in errant shots hitting a building by mistake.

    "This investigation concluded that this may have resulted in civilian casualties but no evidence of this was established," the NZDF's statement said.
    "The NZDF reiterates its position that New Zealand personnel acted appropriately during this operation and were not involved in the deaths of civilians or any untoward destruction of property.

    The NZDF has previously said in statements that the ISAF investigation concluded that "allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded".

    Wayne Mapp, who was Defence Minister at the time of the raid, said last week civilians were killed, and confirmed he had referred to the operation as a "fiasco".

    Past Defence Ministers have previously said they could not rule out civilian deaths at the hand of foreign troops, but that New Zealand troops were not responsible for inflicting civilian casualties or injuries.

    Keating will hold a press conference tomorrow.

    He said the NZDF welcomed anyone with information relevant to Operation Burnham to come forward.

    In response, Hager told NZME the NZDF was "trying to muddy the waters" over two locations in the middle of the mountains.

    "We're talking about the middle of the Hindu Kush mountains where there are no roads ... on a river valley which took several hours to walk to from the nearest road - they're saying that it's slightly further upstream than what we were told."

    Hager said the claims were "astonishing".

    "It doesn't in any way invalidate a single major conclusion of the book."

    "We are absolutely confident that an SAS raid took place on 22 August 2010 where six civilians were killed and another 15 injured. We know a dozen houses were destroyed as well. We have testimony about these events from members of the SAS, Afghan commandos and people living in the villages that were raided, Naik and Khak Khuday Dad. The SAS and villagers both
    talked about assaults on the same named people's houses. It is actually impossible that the story is wrong."

    "The NZDF press release is simply incorrect and implausible. To be true, it would require an identical raid by identical forces, using identical helicopters, on identical targets at the same time.

    "We are shocked that the NZDF believes this is a legitimate reply to the serious and tragic revelations in the book. It looks like nothing more than people trying to evade responsibility and reinforces the need for a full and independent inquiry."

    In an interview with the Herald this week an SAS soldier described the raid in the Baghlan province.

    He said the two people found shot dead were killed by SAS marksmen who believed they were acting under "Rules of Engagement" governing their actions on the battlefield.

    He said the other four people killed died in a barrage of fire from United States aircraft called in by a New Zealander operating as the Joint Terminal Air Controller, who is responsible for directing air support.

    While not personally involved in the raid the soldier spoken to by the Herald said he learned details as part of his role in the military which required detailed information on what transpired.

    - NZ Herald

  2. #2

    Nicholas Jones

    Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

    'Put up or shut up' Defence Force chief told

    4:18 PM Tuesday Mar 28, 2017

    Nicky Hager (left) and Jon Stephenson during the launch of their book, Hit & Run. Photo / Mark Mitchell

    Journalist Jon Stephenson has called on the Chief of Defence Force to "put up or shut up" and release camera footage taken during SAS raids in Afghanistan.

    Lieutenant General Tim Keating fronted media yesterday after returning from Iraq and almost a week after Stephenson and Nicky Hager released Hit & Run, alleging SAS raids in Baghlan province in 2010 killed six civilians and not insurgents as officials have claimed.

    A key part of Keating's rebuttal of the book is that New Zealand personnel have never been to the two villages named in the book, Naik and Khak Khuday Dad.

    Keating told reporters he had seen geo-referenced footage of the raid - called Operation Burnham - that proved both what was fired upon by supporting US helicopters, and exactly where the raids occurred - not Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, which were about 2km away and in very different terrain.

    While Labour, the Green Party, NZ First and United Future have all called for an inquiry, Keating said a starting point for any investigation was to "tie the alleged perpetrators to the scene of the crime".

    Stephenson urged Keating to release the footage.

    "Show the whole thing. There is no reason why it can't be shown. It is many years since the operation. No one is in Afghanistan anymore doing these operations. There is no operational security requirement. The SAS is facing serious allegations. Put up or shut up."

    Defence Force Chief, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, during a press conference in Wellington on the allegations made in the book Hit & Run. Photo / Mark Mitchell

    He said details covered in Keating's press conference matched with those in his book.

    The name Operation Burnham had not been public before being used in Hit & Run, he said, and was confirmed by the NZDF yesterday.

    Hit & Run described the SAS raiding the property of an insurgent called Abdullah Kalta in Naik village, and an SAS member being injured when a wall of his guest house collapsed.

    Stephenson said that was similar to NZDF's account yesterday, when Keating confirmed an SAS soldier was injured by falling debris.

    "There was only one SAS trooper that was injured that night ... only one that was flown out for medical treatment to Germany, and only one that my sources helped carry to the helicopter," Stephenson said.

    Because Naik and Khak Khuday Dad are in Taliban-controlled territory Stephenson said he interviewed villagers in a guest house between Kabul and their homes, and in Kabul.

    When in New Zealand, Stephenson said he contacted an interpreter in Kabul, who would call a trusted contact in the villages' area.

    Images were from cellphone or stills from cellphone footage, and Stephenson also provided a camera to one of the villages' representatives and asked for certain photos, such as a wide-angle shot of Naik.

    He had gone back to village contacts after the NZDF statement that personnel had never been in the villages.

    "I have spoken to the doctor who went to their village ... and gone through in depth with him [the response] and he has just laughed at some of the allegations.

    "Everyone knows everyone in this area ... they all live close to a river or stream that runs down the valley ... it is like a big gossip mill. They categorically state there was no other operation in that area that night.

    "Either Tim Keating's people are geographically confused or Nicky and I are, in terms of the actual points on the maps ... there is no doubt the operations are the same. We know who they raided based on the people we have spoken to and based on their own documents. We know it was Operation Burnham."

    Since the raid the NZDF has said claims civilians were killed during the raids were investigated and judged to be "unfounded" - a position repeated after Hit & Run's release a week ago.

    However, Keating said yesterday there "may have been" casualties.

    During "Operation Burnham" supporting US aircraft targeted insurgents outside Tirgiran Village, and SAS troops on the ground noticed its fire was falling short into a building where civilians may have been present along with insurgents, Keating said.

    "The weapon malfunctioned and some rounds went into that building. There is no confirmation that any casualties occurred, but there may have been."

    Keating said nine insurgents were killed. One was shot by an SAS member. After the raid a delegation approached Provincial Governor of Baghlan Province, Governor Mojid, claiming six civilians had been killed.

    That led to an investigation by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which concluded the malfunctioning gun sight could have resulted in civilian casualties.

    Keating also rejected the Hit & Run's claim the raids were in revenge after the death of soldier Timothy O'Donnell, the first New Zealand combat death in Afghanistan.

    "The bottom-line - revenge was never a driver. We are a professional force," Keating said.

    "It's not only the New Zealand Defence Force reputation, it's the New Zealand reputation."

    Stephenson said he "almost feels pity" for Keating: "It is embarrassing. I would hate to get up and have to run this bullshit."

    This afternoon Prime Minister Bill English said he would need to take advice about declassifying the raid footage cited by Keating.

    "There's clearly been a lot of investigation and reporting as a standard process in the defence forces, I think there will be plenty of material there to corroborate what the Chief of Defence Force is saying."

    English repeated his earlier position that there wouldn't be any inquiry into allegations the SAS was possibly involved in war crimes as a result of actions during the raids, but didn't rule out an inquiry or investigation into other claims.

    "The Chief of Defence Force and his people laid out all the events. That's a different set of facts that are in the book. So we are certainly taking that into consideration.

    "I think it makes it pretty clear there won't be an inquiry into war crimes, but as that only happened in the last day or two we will be taking some further advice from defence and officials."

    - NZ Herald

  3. #3

    Loving the press over his claims... I'm fairly certain the NZSAS were aware of where they operated however...
    In a low speed post-merge manoeuvring fight, with a high off-boresight 4th generation missile and Helmet Mounted Display, the Super Hornet will be a very difficult opponent for any current Russian fighter, even the Su-27/30

  4. #4

    I know a couple of Kiwi Ex SAS guys from my time living there. Neither of them got lost.............ever! Unless they really wanted to.................

  5. #5

    PM: No inquiry into SAS allegations in Afghanistan

    4:06 PM Monday Apr 3, 2017

    There will be no inquiry into allegations about SAS raids after advice from the "independent" Chief of Defence Force and video footage backing that up, Prime Minister Bill English has announced.

    That decision has been labelled "disappointing and concerning" by Nicky Hager, co-author of Hit & Run, who said it was the result of military pressure and would ensure the issue would "continue to boil and fester".

    "Bill English is an experienced minister who knows the difference between being shown selective information by an interested party, as he has been by the defence force, and having an independent inquiry," Hager said.

    After receiving Lieutenant General Tim Keating's advice that troops involved in the raids met the "benchmark" of acting according to the rules of engagement, English today watched video footage taken from aircraft involved in the 2010 raids in Afghanistan's Baghlan province.

    The classified video he saw confirmed the "extensive steps, restraint and care" that forces took to minimise the chances of civilian casualties, English said.

    He would not go into detail about what the footage showed and said it would not be publicly released.

    He did not watch footage of the whole operation but was confident in what he saw.

    "There are a number of different points of view from a number of different aircraft."

    Asked how Keating - a former commanding officer of the NZSAS - was in any way independent, English said Keating was not involved in the raids, dubbed Operation Burnham.

    "The CDF is independent. He wasn't involved in the operation. He has access to video of the actual operation itself, along with all the planning that went into it, the review afterwards by ISAF. We trust that process.

    "There's not any real contest over the facts other than the book...which has got them wrong...it looks to be in some cases a wildly inaccurate piece of journalism."

    English said he had become more convinced after reviewing material that Keating's conclusion that there was no misconduct was right.

    He had not spoken to anybody outside the Defence Force in reaching that conclusion, but denied the NZDF had investigated itself, saying the raids had been investigated by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

    Hit & Run by journalists Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager claims six civilians were killed and 15 were injured in the 2010 raids, and those facts have been covered up by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

    The book said the raid was a revenge attack on insurgents who were believed to be responsible for the death of soldier Timothy O'Donnell, the first New Zealand combat death in Afghanistan.

    Stephenson and Hager, Labour, the Green Party, New Zealand First and United Future have all called for an inquiry into the Hit & Run allegations, as have lawyers acting for Afghan villagers.

    Tonight, Labour leader Andrew Little said an inquiry was needed, and English had allowed the fine reputation of New Zealand's troops to be undermined by a perception that the allegations were not independently investigated.

    "The Prime Minister says he's viewed relevant parts of the video of the incident, rather than the entire video, and he's satisfied entirely with the recommendations of the Chief of Defence.

    "The accounts depicted by the Defence Force and the writers of Hit & Run present two very different viewpoints. Somewhere in the middle is the truth, and for public confidence in the integrity of the investigation and the actions of our troops we must have an independent inquiry."

    English said today there were ongoing inquiries into claims in the book that a man captured by the NZSAS after the raids and in January 2011 was badly beaten by an NZSAS member, and transferred to the National Directorate of Security in Kabul, where he was tortured.

    "Inquiries are ongoing because they are still trying to establish exactly what happened. In that situation they don't have the benefits of the oversight and review and video which is automatically part of coalition operations in the field."

    Deborah Manning, one of the lawyers acting for villagers, said the legal team would not be making comment tonight.

    Keating and the NZDF say the book contains major inaccuracies, including the location of the villages where the raids took place, named in the book as Naik and Khak Khuday Dad.

    Nine insurgents were killed in the raids and it was possible civilians died because of misfire from a US helicopter, Keating said last Monday, but this could not be established.

    The NZDF has previously said investigations by ISAF after the raids determined allegations of civilian deaths were "unfounded". Asked if that was misleading, English said he understood it was a legal term.

    Wayne Mapp, who as Defence Minister approved the "Operation Burnham" raids in 2010, outed himself as a source for the book on Friday and called for further investigation to find out if civilians died.

    Despite Hager and Stephenson's admission after the book's release that the location given for the villages in the book was incorrect, Mapp said the accounts of the NZDF and the two journalists were reconcilable.

    That was because NZDF had now recognised that civilian casualties may have occurred.

    - NZ Herald

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