Journalist Jon Stephenson has called on the Chief of Defence Force to "put up or shut up" and release camera footage taken during SAS raids in Afghanistan.
Lieutenant General Tim Keating fronted media yesterday after returning from Iraq and almost a week after Stephenson and Nicky Hager released Hit & Run, alleging SAS raids in Baghlan province in 2010 killed six civilians and not insurgents as officials have claimed.
No one is in Afghanistan anymore doing these operations. There is no operational security requirement. The SAS is facing serious allegations. Put up or shut up.
A key part of Keating's rebuttal of the book is that New Zealand personnel have never been to the two villages named in the book, Naik and Khak Khuday Dad.
Keating told reporters he had seen geo-referenced footage of the raid - called Operation Burnham - that proved both what was fired upon by supporting US helicopters, and exactly where the raids occurred - not Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, which were about 2km away and in very different terrain.
While Labour, the Green Party, NZ First and United Future have all called for an inquiry, Keating said a starting point for any investigation was to "tie the alleged perpetrators to the scene of the crime".
Stephenson urged Keating to release the footage.
"Show the whole thing. There is no reason why it can't be shown. It is many years since the operation. No one is in Afghanistan anymore doing these operations. There is no operational security requirement. The SAS is facing serious allegations. Put up or shut up."
He said details covered in Keating's press conference matched with those in his book.
The name Operation Burnham had not been public before being used in Hit & Run, he said, and was confirmed by the NZDF yesterday.
Hit & Run described the SAS raiding the property of an insurgent called Abdullah Kalta in Naik village, and an SAS member being injured when a wall of his guest house collapsed.
Stephenson said that was similar to NZDF's account yesterday, when Keating confirmed an SAS soldier was injured by falling debris.
"There was only one SAS trooper that was injured that night ... only one that was flown out for medical treatment to Germany, and only one that my sources helped carry to the helicopter," Stephenson said.
Because Naik and Khak Khuday Dad are in Taliban-controlled territory Stephenson said he interviewed villagers in a guest house between Kabul and their homes, and in Kabul.
When in New Zealand, Stephenson said he contacted an interpreter in Kabul, who would call a trusted contact in the villages' area.
Images were from cellphone or stills from cellphone footage, and Stephenson also provided a camera to one of the villages' representatives and asked for certain photos, such as a wide-angle shot of Naik.
He had gone back to village contacts after the NZDF statement that personnel had never been in the villages.
"I have spoken to the doctor who went to their village ... and gone through in depth with him [the response] and he has just laughed at some of the allegations.
"Everyone knows everyone in this area ... they all live close to a river or stream that runs down the valley ... it is like a big gossip mill. They categorically state there was no other operation in that area that night.
"Either Tim Keating's people are geographically confused or Nicky and I are, in terms of the actual points on the maps ... there is no doubt the operations are the same. We know who they raided based on the people we have spoken to and based on their own documents. We know it was Operation Burnham."
Since the raid the NZDF has said claims civilians were killed during the raids were investigated and judged to be "unfounded" - a position repeated after Hit & Run's release a week ago.
However, Keating said yesterday there "may have been" casualties.
During "Operation Burnham" supporting US aircraft targeted insurgents outside Tirgiran Village, and SAS troops on the ground noticed its fire was falling short into a building where civilians may have been present along with insurgents, Keating said.
"The weapon malfunctioned and some rounds went into that building. There is no confirmation that any casualties occurred, but there may have been."
Keating said nine insurgents were killed. One was shot by an SAS member. After the raid a delegation approached Provincial Governor of Baghlan Province, Governor Mojid, claiming six civilians had been killed.
That led to an investigation by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which concluded the malfunctioning gun sight could have resulted in civilian casualties.
Keating also rejected the Hit & Run's claim the raids were in revenge after the death of soldier Timothy O'Donnell, the first New Zealand combat death in Afghanistan.
"The bottom-line - revenge was never a driver. We are a professional force," Keating said.
"It's not only the New Zealand Defence Force reputation, it's the New Zealand reputation."
Stephenson said he "almost feels pity" for Keating: "It is embarrassing. I would hate to get up and have to run this bullshit."
This afternoon Prime Minister Bill English said he would need to take advice about declassifying the raid footage cited by Keating.
"There's clearly been a lot of investigation and reporting as a standard process in the defence forces, I think there will be plenty of material there to corroborate what the Chief of Defence Force is saying."
English repeated his earlier position that there wouldn't be any inquiry into allegations the SAS was possibly involved in war crimes as a result of actions during the raids, but didn't rule out an inquiry or investigation into other claims.
"The Chief of Defence Force and his people laid out all the events. That's a different set of facts that are in the book. So we are certainly taking that into consideration.
"I think it makes it pretty clear there won't be an inquiry into war crimes, but as that only happened in the last day or two we will be taking some further advice from defence and officials."