A "revenge" raid by the Special Air Service to pay back Taliban insurgents for New Zealand's first fatality in Afghanistan was a "fiasco" that led to the deaths of six civilians, a new book has alleged.
The charge that six civilians were killed - and another 15 people were injured - is a direct contrast to assurances given by former Prime Minister John Key, former defence ministers Jonathan Coleman and Wayne Mapp and the New Zealand Defence Force.
The official story was that nine insurgents were killed during the raid - the book alleges no genuine targets were found and women and children were among those killed during a bombardment from attack helicopters.
The book, Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour, quoted one military source as saying: "They knew they had committed an atrocity."
Another was quoted saying ""it was definitely a revenge raid".
The book claimed Mapp later told the friend the raid was ""our biggest and most disastrous operation". The book stated that he called the raid "a fiasco".
The book was written by journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson who have both written extensively on New Zealand's involvement in Afghanistan. It stated it was based on information from more than 30 people, with many of the approximately 20 New Zealand and Afghan military sources directly involved in the raid.
The book alleged faulty intelligence and overwhelming United States air support devastated two villages in the Tirgiran Valley in Baghlan province, about 50km away from Kiwi Base in Bamiyan province where New Zealand's "Provincial Reconstruction Team" was based.
Central to the book's claims are pinning responsibility for the deaths on the New Zealand military and the SAS wanting to pay back those who killed O'Donnell. It maintained that even though transported to the raid and supported in it by US helicopters, the operation was entirely New Zealand's responsibility from concept and planning through to execution.
The targets were three of the fighters suspected of being involved in the attack which claimed O'Donnell's life, the book stated. None were found and the only success was recovery of a small amount of ammunition in one of more than 100 houses.
It set out the chain of events which began with the death of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell on August 4 2010 which was followed by a raid on August 22 2010 by a combined force of SAS and the Afghan Crisis Response Unit which the Kiwi soldiers mentored and fought alongside.
It ends with a call for an inquiry into the raid, saying there are questions about how much information the politicians and even senior military commanders were given by the SAS.
The book reveals the raid took place during a visit by Mapp and then-Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae. It stated that both men were briefed on the planned raid which had been designed using information gathered by the SAS intelligence staff.
It claimed that over 15 minutes Mateparae and Mapp were told how the attack would play out and asked for a green light. According to the book, the decision was passed to Key who approved the raid.
The book stated the up to 70 SAS and CRU soldiers were transported by two US Chinook helicopters and a Blackhawk helicopter into the mountains around the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad.
When gunfire was heard near one drop-off point, the SAS were able to call in support from US-piloted Apache gunships which "immediately began a ferocious attack on Khak Khuday Dad village", the book said.
It said that in the wake of the Apache attack on the first village, the the SAS were directed to approach the next where buildings were set on fire. Then the Apaches returned and opened fire again, it claimed, even though there was no sign of fire from any opposing force.
Two of those killed were found with bullet wounds rather than injuries from the weapons of the Apache helicopters, the book stated. It said it raised questions as to whether they had been killed by SAS troopers.
The book alleged the SAS returned 10 days later and used explosives to destroy homes in the village. It also claimed one of those sought was eventually captured in Kabul and was beaten by an SAS soldier before being turned over to an Afghan prison.
When questions were raised about the raid, Key said: "We don't discuss the detail of SAS operations. but what we do say categorically is that no New Zealand soldier was involved in killing civilians."
It stated that the raid was followed by a cover-up and that an inquiry was needed to discover how it became portrayed as a successful mission in which no civilians were killed.
Tonight the New Zealand Defence Force said it stood by the statement it made on 20 April 2011.
"As the 2011 statement says, following the operation, allegations of civilian casualties were made. These were investigated by a joint Afghan Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assessment team, in accordance with ISAF procedures.
"The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded.
"The NZDF does not undertake investigations or inquiries into the actions of forces from other nations. That was the role of the joint Afghan-ISAF investigation.
"The NZDF is confident that New Zealand personnel conducted themselves in accordance with the applicable rules of engagement."
Former Prime Minister John Key provided a brief statement tonight saying: "I am proud of the work the SAS did, and the support they provided in Afghanistan."
A spokeswoman for acting Minister of Defence Christopher Finlayson said: "The matter was investigated at the time and I am advised by the New Zealand Defence Force they stand by what they said at the time."
1. Abdul Qayoom, son of Sakhidad, Khak Khuday Dad
2. Abdul Faqir, son of Abdul Rahman, Khak Khuday Dad
3. Fatima, daughter of Abdul Khaliq, Khak Khuday Dad
4. Mohammad Iqbal, son of Noor Mohammad, Naik
5. Abdul Qayoom, son of Mohammad Iqbal, Naik
6. Islamuddin, son of Abdul Qadir, Khak Khuday Dad
7. Bibi Khadija, daughter of Mohammad Rahim, Khak Khuday Dad
8. Abdullah, son of Abdul Khaliq, Khak Khuday Dad
9. Bibi Hanifa, daughter of Abdul Khaliq, Khak Khuday Dad
10. Bibi Zuhra, daughter of Faiz Mohammad, Khak Khuday Dad
11. Bibi Aziza, daughter of Abdul Qadus, Khak Khuday Dad
12. Naimatullah, son of Abdul Qadus, Khak Khuday Dad
13. Bibi Amir Begum, daughter of Mohammad Ibrahim, Khak Khuday Dad
14. Bibi Hafiza, daughter of Abdul Razaq, Khak Khuday Dad
15. Bibi Fatima, daughter of Abdul Razaq, Khak Khuday Dad
16. Bibi Fatima, daughter of Abdul Qadus, Khak Khuday Dad
17. Said Ahmad, son of Said Mohammad, Khak Khuday Dad
18. Noor Ahmad, son of Said Mohammad, Khak Khuday Dad
19. Mohammad Iqbal, son of Said Ahmad, Khak Khuday Dad
20. Deen Mohammad, son of Said Ahmad, Khak Khuday Dad
21. Gul Andam, daughter of Mohammad Iqbal, Khak Khuday Dad