Key rejects SAS friendly fire claim

Reports that two New Zealand SAS soldiers wounded in last week's Kabul hotel firefight with Taleban insurgents were victims of friendly fire are unlikely to be true despite fresh reports of an apology made to them, Prime Minister John Key says.

"I've asked the Chief of Defence Force about that and the view is that is not the case. While there will always be an investigation into these matters and they are complex when you have a number of agencies involved as was the case with the shoot out at the Intercontinental in Kabul, the view is they don't think it's likely it was friendly fire," he told Breakfast on TV One.

The Australian Broadcasting Service (ABC) on Saturday quoted a senior Afghan police official as saying that one of his men accidentally shot and wounded the New Zealand soldier as Nato forces tried to retake the Intercontinental Hotel.

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.

Reports said Afghan police had apologised. Defence Minister Wayne Mapp told Radio New Zealand he was unaware of any such apology.

BBC journalist Bilal Sarwary told the broadcaster that he had been told directly by police about the apology.

"A day after the attack I met with several senior police officials they told me that one of their soldiers had mistakenly opened fire. They said that the New Zealand soldier was extremely upset and the Afghan official said `we understood and we went and apologized'," Sarwary said.

The Afghan officials he spoke to emphasised they appreciated what the New Zealanders had done and said they played a `crucial role' opening locked and booby trapped rooms.

That gratitude had been passed along with the apology which was accepted.

Sarwary said his sources were several reliable police officials that he had known for years.

- NZPA

- NZ Herald

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