Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

PM: SAS not on 'revenge mission'

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Prime Minister John Key has denied a report that SAS troops have been re-deployed to Afghanistan to carry out a "revenge mission" for the killings of five New Zealand soldiers.

Mr Key was responding to claims by Jon Stephenson, Radio New Zealand's correspondent in Afghanistan, that sources in the US-led coalition in Afghanistan and the New Zealand SAS community had told him SAS troops were going back to attack.

"Not true. Completely wrong," the Prime Minister said on TV3's Firstline this morning.

"As I've indicated earlier there's a small group who are there and that group is not in a combat role. They are there in terms of providing logistics and planning support."

Stephenson said the troops would be in addition to the ones that Mr Key said had been sent to gather intelligence.

He said he had been told they would be playing an "active part in the hunt" for the insurgents.

"I've been told that the mission of these troops is not to gather intelligence but to help carry out the strikes or the raids on those insurgents that killed the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) soldiers in August."

Mr Key said there had been no applications made to send more SAS troops to Afghanistan, and it would remain a "very small group" there providing "logistics and planning".

Mr Key said in September that four SAS "logistics people" were sent to Afghanistan, having previously indicated the deployment was likely after the deaths of Provincial Reconstruction Team members Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, Private Richard Harris, Corporal Luke Tamatea, and Lance Corporals Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer in two separate incidents.

"If there is work to be done with insurgent groups then that will be undertaken by other SAS forces. Those SAS forces don't always have the time to do all of the planning work and our people know it very well so they can assist them to do, if you like, the behind the scenes work. But that's very different from picking up their guns and going on a mission."

New Zealand's SAS force of about 70 personnel was withdrawn earlier this year.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 17 Sep 2014 12:59:42 Processing Time: 381ms