Defence doubts friendly fire claim

The Defence Force isn't ruling out reports that Afghan police shot and wounded one of the two New Zealand SAS soldiers injured in last week's Kabul hotel firefight with Taliban insurgents.

The Australian Broadcasting Service (ABC) yesterday quoted a senior Afghan police official as saying that one of his men accidentally shot and wounded the Kiwi soldier as NATO forces tried to retake the Inter-Continental Hotel.

A Defence Force spokesman said he doubted, but could not rule out, the claim.

"Although you cannot always be completely sure in very complex operations with multiple agencies involved in resolving the situation, we have no evidence to suggest friendly fire was a factor in what occurred," he told Fairfax Media.

He said the two soldiers were "recovering well and in good spirits".

"Their injuries are not life-threatening and their families are in contact. The soldiers will return to duty in due course."

The hotel was hosting an Afghan security conference and a wedding when the insurgents struck killing nine Afghan civilians, mostly hotel workers in the lobby, two police officers and a Spanish citizen, reportedly an airline pilot on a stopover in Kabul.

Three insurgents were shot dead and five blew themselves up as Nato forces retook the hotel.

- NZPA

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