Under an almost complete cloak of silence investigative reporter Nicky Hager and war correspondent Jon Stephenson launched a new book last night that claims that New Zealand troops were involved in a botched raid in Afghanistan in 2010 that resulted in the deaths of 6 civilians and serious injury to 5 others.
“On 22 August 2010 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) elements, operating as part of a Coalition Force in Bamyan province, Afghanistan conducted an operation against an insurgent group…
Nine insurgents (not 12 as reported) were killed in the operation which targeted an insurgent group in the area where Bamyan province borders neighbouring Baghlan province…
Following the operation allegations of civilian casualties were made. These were investigated by a joint Afghan Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior and International Security Assistance Force Assessment team, in accordance with ISAF procedures….
The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded.”
New Zealand Defence Force – Media Release – 20 April 2011
Six years later, to the day of that press release, investigative reporter Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson have released a book (Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour). It reveals what they believe to be the truth behind the “tragic and disastrous SAS actions” and allege that “at least 21 civilians were killed or injured – many of them women and children.” They have even recorded their names and documented their lives in the book, including 3-year-old Fatima, who was killed as her mother, carrying her, tried to dive for cover.
They also claim that the attack went further, leading to the blowing up and burning of at least a dozen houses by SAS and US forces and then later, a second village raid destroying more property before one single insurgent was caught. He was handed over to the Afghan secret police and tortured.
Hager also claimed that the real insurgents, still very much alive, had actually attended the funerals of six civilians killed in the raid the very next day. This he said was recorded on video and sold to authorities. He hadn’t seen the tape, he conceded.
This book, he said, was an investigation into the truth behind the story of these raids and the cover up that was conducted not only by the NZDF but also by The Defence Minister at the time, Wayne Mapp and the Prime Minister at the time, John Key, who had actually authorised the attacks by telephone.
He made no bones about linking the connection between the raids and the recent death of a New Zealander, Lt Tim O’Donnell, who was killed by a roadside bomb in August 2010. One journalist asked if this was a revenge attack that he was alluding to but he was careful not to answer this conclusively.
Hager said that he and Stephenson had been given the story, they hadn’t sought it out. And that was one of the compelling reasons to pursue it. Both Hager and Stephenson emphasised several times during the book launch that the book was based on ‘numerous and extensive interviews with people involved in these events, including New Zealand and Afghan military personnel as well as residents of the village.” Hager did also add that he had not approached Key or Mapp for comment because he believed that although they may have known the truth they were not likely to reveal anything or even to reply in any way.
Hager’s book was released today and will be available through most of the usual retail outlets. Below is uncut audio of the media conference, held in the foyer next to Unity Books.