Coleman: Taleban wants to unsettle us

The Taleban is trying to unsettle the New Zealand public and Government with its "propaganda" that more Kiwi blood will spill in Afghanistan, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says.

The threat followed the deaths of five New Zealand soldiers in a month - our bloodiest month since November 1951.

"We will find them and kill them, there's no safety for them," Taleban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in an interview with a Herald on Sunday correspondent.

Dr Coleman said the Government would not be swayed by his words.

"There is a war of words and propaganda, and naturally the Taleban would want to unsettle the public and the Government of New Zealand with statements like this," he told TVNZ's Q + A programme today.

"I'm very concerned for the safety of our people but, you know, the NZDF and the Government always realised that this was a dangerous deployment and there were risks, so we were prepared for this eventuality."

Bamiyan province would be left a "mess" if New Zealand's troops pulled out prematurely, Dr Coleman said.

April next year has been flagged by the Government as the earliest New Zealand could pull out its troops.

"We actually can't leave before April 2013, because it takes time to pack up and leave. There's the issues around the weather and the ability to fly in and out, and then the availability of the airport. So people who think we could suddenly go now are actually wrong. If we did, we'd be leaving behind a mess, and that would not honour the sacrifice of our 10 dead soldiers in Afghanistan."

The Taleban spokesman said the Afghan militia had extensive knowledge of New Zealand weaponry and movements.

"We know ... which kinds of weapons and ammunition they have. We know that the New Zealanders do not have strong weapons like the Americans or British, but if they had it wouldn't matter for us."

Mujahid is thought to be a pseudonym used by several different spokesmen who operate close to the Pakistan border. He said forces were well aware they were targeting Kiwi forces.

"Yes we knew our target was New Zealand forces, because they are with our enemy and the others who came to our country with guns and weapons.

"We are killing the New Zealanders because they are helping the Americans. They have come to kill and arrest our people.

"For this we have a duty to attack them, but we do not have any other enmity towards the people of New Zealand," he said.

"The families of deceased families should pressure the Government to pull out of Afghanistan.

"The families of those killed should tell the Government of New Zealand not to send soldiers to kill Afghans, because this fight does not belong to New Zealand. This is an American fight and they have persuaded other countries to become involved.

"The families of those killed should tell their Government to stop fighting, otherwise we will send more bodies of soldiers back to New Zealand."

A service was held at Burnham Military Camp in Christchurch yesterday for three New Zealand personnel killed in Afghanistan last weekend.

Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris were killed instantly when their Humvee ran over an improvised explosive device in Bamiyan.

- APNZ

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