Defence Force checks delayed SAS mission claims

By Hayden Donnell, and NZPA

A new report claims Afghan officials caused dangerous delays to a rescue mission where a New Zealand SAS soldier was killed. Photo / AFP
A new report claims Afghan officials caused dangerous delays to a rescue mission where a New Zealand SAS soldier was killed. Photo / AFP

The Chief of Defence has asked the commander of New Zealand special forces troops in Afghanistan to confirm whether media reports there were delays in deploying troops, including the SAS, during the attack in which Linton trooper Corporal Doug Grant was killed, are accurate.

"We have no information to believe this is the case but we have asked for confirmation and a report from theatre,'' said Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones.

"This was a complex attack from a well-prepared insurgent group who had clearly identified their intent to establish themselves in strong defensive positions,'' Lt Gen Jones said today.

"As the situation developed it became clear that the initial response capabilities of Afghan national security forces and international security assistance force units were insufficient to deal with the situation,'' he said.

Afghan crisis response unit (CRU) troops, supported by members of New Zealand's SAS "were therefore required to deploy forward to reinforce the initial response and efforts to resolve the situation,'' he said.

A new report has claimed that bickering Afghan officials caused dangerous delays to a rescue mission where a New Zealand SAS soldier was killed by Taleban insurgents.

Corporal Doug Grant, 41, was shot dead last week during an operation to rescue hostages at the British Council cultural centre in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, which was being attacked by the Taleban.

Eight policemen and three Afghan guards were also killed in the raid.

The Scotsman newspaper today reported the response had been delayed more than four hours as officials debated who would be in charge.

It claimed Kabul police chief General Mohammad Ayub Salangi refused to let commandos take over the mission at 5:40am (local time).

Afghanistan's elite Crisis Response Unit (CRU) and their New Zealand SAS force mentors were only called back from a barracks on the other side of the city at about 10am, it reported.

It took the commandos five hours to clear the building and kill the insurgents.

During the operation, an insurgent bullet hit a gap in Corporal Grant's body armour under his armpit and passed through his heart.

Although he clung to life for some time and was resuscitated at least once, he died of his injuries as he was being evacuated to Bagram Military Hospital.

Director of Afghanistan's Special Forces, General Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada reportedly said his squad of commandos arrived on the scene at the British Council Building abotu 20 minutes after a first explosion.

He was turned back after a conversation with the police chief.

"The situation got worse because of the police chief. All the most dangerous positions were occupied by the terrorists," he said.

The paper also revealed New Zealand SAS forces had been used to blast a way into the compound amid intense machine gun fire.

Afghan and New Zealand forces then "attacked from all sides" until they could rescue two female teachers and a bodyguard who were sheltering in a panic room.

Corporal Grant left behind a wife and two young children - a 7-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son - and his death is the first SAS fatality in Afghanistan in four deployments since 2001.

He was farewelled in a private service in Auckland today. A military funeral will be held in Palmerston North on Monday.

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