A decision on whether an inquiry or further investigation is needed into allegations an SAS raid led to civilian deaths will be based on advice from the Chief of Defence Force.

Hit & Run by journalists Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager claims six civilians were killed and 15 were injured in the raids, and the authors have accused Lieutenant General Tim Keating of doing everything in his power to avoid an inquiry.

But Prime Minister Bill English told reporters today that he was waiting for further advice from Keating - a former commanding officer of the NZSAS - into whether any further action is required.

"He will tell us whether he thinks there is a basis there with any new evidence or any new information," English said.

Advertisement

"It's his job to look into these kinds of allegations...the book has turned out to be wrong, pretty fundamentally wrong about events that might have happened but certainly happened somewhere else."

Wayne Mapp, who as Defence Minister approved the raids in 2010, outed himself as a source for the book earlier today and called for further investigation to find out if civilians died.

English said as a private citizen Mapp was "free to follow whatever opinions he has", but said they were based largely on a television documentary by Stephenson that showed on Maori TV in 2014.

"So he doesn't have any different or more information than anyone else."

As Defence Minister Mapp was briefed both before and after the SAS operations - called Operation Burnham - in Baghlan province.

Former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp has called for further investigation into SAS raids that he approved in 2010. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Greg Bowker
Former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp has called for further investigation into SAS raids that he approved in 2010. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Greg Bowker

Through other sources the book said Mapp had described the raids as a "fiasco", and after its release he confirmed he had used those words.

But today he outed himself as a direct source for Stephenson in an essay published on the Pundit website, in which he said as Defence Minister he knew insurgents had been killed in the raids, although the stated aim of arresting or "otherwise dealing with" Taliban leaders had failed.

After Mapp retired from politics he saw the documentary by Stephenson on Maori TV and said it became clear it was possible there were other casualties from the raids, including a three year-old girl, named in Hit & Run as Fatima.

Advertisement

Mapp confirmed he had previously been interviewed by Stephenson and he "told me enough about what had happened for it to be believable...even if it was not fully proven".

"The law of armed conflict accepts that civilian casualties might occur in military operations, and in many cases there is no legal liability for them, particularly if they were accidental," Mapp wrote.

"But for New Zealand, is that the end of the matter? Do we hold ourselves to a higher standard? For me, it is not enough to say there might have been civilian casualties. As a nation we owe it to ourselves to find out, to the extent reasonably possible, if civilian casualties did occur, and if they did, to properly acknowledge that."

Stephenson and Hager, Labour, the Green Party, New Zealand First and United Future have all called for an inquiry into the allegations in Hit & Run, as have lawyers acting for Afghani villagers.

Mapp, who was made a member of the Law Commission by the Government in 2012, said in his view getting to the bottom of the allegations did not necessarily require an independent investigation.

Rather, information was most likely to be forthcoming through diplomatic approaches to the Afghan government and non-government organisations on the ground in Afghanistan.

Despite the New Zealand Defence Force maintaining Hit & Run contained major inaccuracies including the location of the raids - and Hager and Stephenson's subsequent admission the location given for the villages in the book was incorrect - Mapp said the accounts of the NZDF and the two journalists were reconcilable.

That was because NZDF had now recognised that civilian casualties may have occurred - an admission made by Keating at a press conference on Monday, when he said a misfiring gun on a US helicopter hit a building that may have had civilians inside.

The NZDF has declined to answer Herald questions since the Monday press conference, saying it has "nothing further to add".

Authors Nicky Hager, left, and Jon Stephenson with their book, Hit & Run. New Zealand Herald photograph by Mark Mitchell
Authors Nicky Hager, left, and Jon Stephenson with their book, Hit & Run. New Zealand Herald photograph by Mark Mitchell

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the NZDF's integrity had been seriously challenged by the Hit & Run allegations and he agreed with Mapp to the extent further investigation was needed to provide certainty about what happened.

"We need to clear the decks here," Peters said. "There has been a less than compelling response from NZDF."

Peters said he was concerned with the facts and not judging Mapp's decision to talk to Stephenson, but said the former Defence Minister was motivated by a "desire to tell the truth as he sees it".