It is unclear whether the New Zealand Defence Force ever carried out its own investigation into the 2010 NZSAS raid which is said to have led to the deaths of six people and the wounding of 15 others.

And there is also no clarity over how its statement that no one died in the raid matches up with an inquiry report at the time which conceded civilians may have been killed - the same view put forward by a former Minister of Defence.

An analysis of public comments from the time versus NZDF's statements show there are inconsistencies between its claims that there were no civilian casualties and the statements made following the initial inquiry.

The claim from NZDF that there were no civilian casualties at all is also at odds with comment from Cabinet minister Jonathan Coleman in 2014 when he was Minister of Defence.


The Herald has asked the NZDF if it ever carried out its own inquiry.

A spokesman for NZDF said this afternoon "we have nothing to add to our statement nor any plans to put anyone up for interview at this time".

A new book by author Nicky Hager and war correspondent Jon Stephenson, Hit & Run, alleges the NZSAS-led raid resulted in civilian death and injury, completely missing the targets it intended to capture or kill.

The claim was a direct contrast to NZDF denials dating from 2011 that there were any civilian casualties, with the military claiming it killed nine combatants.

The raid took place in the early hours of August 22 2010 and saw the NZSAS assault two villages in the Baghlan province alongside the Afghan unit it was mentoring and United States air support.

In the aftermath of the raid, the Baghlan province's governor, Munshi Abdul Majid, raised concerns with the multinational coalition leader - the International Security Assistance Force - over the raid.

It led to ISAF carrying out a brief review of the raid alongside the Afghan Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior.

Seven days after the raid, a statement from ISAF joint command said "several rounds from coalition helicopters fell short, missing the intended target and instead striking two buildings, which may have resulted in civilian casualties".


It quoted US Air Force Brigadier General Timothy M Zadalis saying: "We regret any possible civilian loss of life or injury. Our first objective is to protect the people of Afghanistan, and in this case we may have failed.

"Our thoughts and concerns are with the family and friends of those civilians who may have been injured or killed."

He said the "short rounds" from the Apache gunships were caused by "a gun site malfunction" which was discovered "during an examination of the air weapons team video".

The ISAF statement said the inquiry read briefings for the operation, met with the province's governor and chief of police, along with watching the video. It does not state that those investigating the raid visited either of the villages or interviewed soldiers who took part in the raid, or those on the receiving end.

In April 2011, when news of the NZSAS involvement in the raid became public, the NZDF put out a statement which pointed to the ISAF inquiry.

It stated as fact: "The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded."

And yet, when Coleman - Minister of Defence in 2014 when the issue arose again - was asked, he said it was possible there were civilian deaths but they weren't caused by New Zealanders.

Coleman said "you probably can't rule out" civilian deaths from Apache gunship fire. "The key thing is New Zealand Government is responsible for the actions of New Zealand troops."

The position Coleman put is similar to that in the NZDF statement released last night that said: "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."

However, it maintained that no one had died, pointing again to the ISAF inquiry: "The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded."

It did not address the earlier ISAF concession that civilians might have died or state whether NZDF had carried out its own inquiry.

Hager 'shocked' at defence denials

Earlier, Hager said he was "shocked" at the NZ Defence Force rejection of the claims.

Hager, who wrote Hit & Run with war correspondent Jon Stephenson, said the initial response by the NZDF to repeat denials of civilian casualties made no sense, given the level of detail provided in the book.

"I was shocked by their response because anybody who looks inside the book will realise it can't be true. I wish people inside Defence had taken a deep breath and looked at what we had done before saying what they did."

One response stated: "The NZDF does not undertake investigations or inquiries into the actions of forces from other nations."

Hager said it was a "feeble" distancing. "When you are in command of a military operation you are responsible. The military is all about responsibility. That's what the command line means."

Hit & Run details the NZSAS gathering intelligence on those believed responsible for the death of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell on August 4, 2010, and the efforts put into having the United States' military command approve them as targets.

The book also details the helicopter support from the US, both in terms of transport to the remote valley where the attack was to take place, and fire support from Apache gunship helicopters it claimed were responsible for four of the six deaths. A 3-year-old girl was claimed to be among those who died.

Hager said sources for the book included members of the SAS who were "loyal to their organisation" but deeply disturbed by the outcome of the attack.

"Overall, the SAS and Defence Force believe in and have a very strong code of honour about how they behave."

In the case of this attack, Hager said the "mood" was different because of O'Donnell's death, and sources in the book said it was a "revenge" attack.

He said the operation after O'Donnell's death was different.

"I personally have great confidence that when our people are overseas they act with great integrity."

After the Apache barrage, the book claimed, soldiers burned houses and later came back with explosives to destroy homes. It also claimed no one suspected to be responsible for the attack that led to O'Donnell's death was caught or killed.

Some time later, an SAS soldier beat a captured suspect when he was bound before he was handed over to Afghan authorities, the book claimed.

Hager said a factor that led to what he maintained was the truth about the raid not becoming public was the growth in influence of the SAS inside the NZ Defence Force.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating was a former SAS commander, as was former chief Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae, who was said in the book to have watched the raid.

RSA national president Barry Clark said he had no reason to disbelieve denials from NZDF although he had "no way of knowing what went down".

"We've got no idea of fact or fiction."

He said NZ Defence Force personnel "were not a gung ho defence force".

"I have great confidence that when our people are overseas they act with great integrity."

Serial litigant Graham McCready joined the fray this morning with a complaint to the International Criminal Court in Europe. He said the book raised allegations of war crimes which needed to be addressed.

McCready, whose private prosecution of former MP John Banks was criticised as confusing, confirmed he had no previous experience taking cases in an international forum.​

Otago University's Professor Richard Jackson - himself the author of eight academic books - said he found Hit & Run compelling because of the careful documenting of research undertaken in writing it.

"They managed to get hold of internal documents, talked to people in the village where it happened, managed to get the SAS and Afghan guys on the raid - that's one of the things that makes this book so surprising and compelling."

Jackson, who is deputy director at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, said the "meticulously reconstructed" book was important for reasons including New Zealand's role in future military missions abroad and the secret way the NZSAS operated in an open

"This is why it is so important we have an independent inquiry."