Prime Minister Bill English says there won't be an inquiry into allegations New Zealand's SAS was possibly involved in war crimes in Afghanistan - but won't rule out an inquiry or investigation into other claims.
English told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning that an inquiry into any of the claims was "unlikely", now the NZ Defence Force had told him its troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book Hit & Run.
"But as we found with this issue it is better to work through it pretty carefully. I wouldn't rule it out just yet.
"But I think we can rule out an inquiry into the alleged war crimes because whatever those stories were, if they happened at all they happened in different villages, not in the village where the New Zealand operation occurred."
Asked what could be covered by an inquiry, English said, "we just need to make sure there are no loose ends".
"[That] there are no new allegations that appear, that all the right steps are followed with respect to the legal processes because they are a bit complicated.
"We won't be having an inquiry into war crime allegations because whatever stories are in that book occurred somewhere else, not where the New Zealand operations were."
Journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson claimed in Hit & Run that six civilians were killed and 15 were injured in the raid, which was carried out with US air support and alongside Afghan troops New Zealand had been mentoring.
The book said the raid was a revenge attack on insurgents who were believed to be responsible for the death of soldier Timothy O'Donnell, the first New Zealand combat death in Afghanistan.
After almost a week of publicity and questions, Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, returned from Iraq on the weekend and yesterday briefed English at the Beehive, along with Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee.
Late last night the NZDF released a statement from Keating saying it could confirm its personnel have never operated in the villages named in the book as Naik and Khak Khuday Dad.
"The authors appear to have confused interviews, stories and anecdotes from locals with an operation conducted more than two kilometres to the south, known as Operation Burnham," the NZDF statement said.
"The villages in the Hager and Stephenson book and the settlement which was the site of Operation Burnham, called Tirgiran, are separated by mountainous and difficult terrain. The NZDF has used the geographical references in the book and cross-referenced them with our own material."
The NZDF said that during Operation Burnham New Zealand was supported by coalition partners, which included air support capacity as previously reported.
After the raid an investigation by the Interior and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) found that a malfunctioning gun sight on a coalition helicopter resulted in errant shots hitting a building by mistake.
"The NZDF reiterates its position that New Zealand personnel acted appropriately during this operation and were not involved in the deaths of civilians or any untoward destruction of property.
The NZDF has previously said in statements that the ISAF investigation concluded that "allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded".
Wayne Mapp, who was Defence Minister at the time of the raid, said last week civilians were killed, and confirmed he had referred to the operation as a "fiasco".
Past Defence Ministers have previously said they could not rule out civilian deaths at the hand of foreign troops, but that New Zealand troops were not responsible for inflicting civilian casualties or injuries.
In response, Hager said the NZDF claims were "astonishing".
"It doesn't in any way invalidate a single major conclusion of the book."
"We are absolutely confident that an SAS raid took place on 22 August 2010 where six civilians were killed and another 15 injured. We know a dozen houses were destroyed as well. We have testimony about these events from members of the SAS, Afghan commandos and people living in the villages that were raided, Naik and Khak Khuday Dad.
"The SAS and villagers both talked about assaults on the same named people's houses. It is actually impossible that the story is wrong."
"The NZDF press release is simply incorrect and implausible. To be true, it would require an identical raid by identical forces, using identical helicopters, on identical targets at the same time.
"We are shocked that the NZDF believes this is a legitimate reply to the serious and tragic revelations in the book. It looks like nothing more than people trying to evade responsibility and reinforces the need for a full and independent inquiry."