22 Mar 2017

Ex-Defence Minister declines to discuss civilian death allegations

1:59 pm on 22 March 2017

Wayne Mapp has declined to be interviewed about allegations in a new book about a New Zealand SAS raid in Afghanistan during his time as Defence Minister.

The authors said this photo showed the village of Naik in summer. They said the other village that was attacked was nearby, about 1km behind the ridge on the left of the photo.

The authors said this photo showed the village of Naik in summer. They said the other village that was attacked, Khak Khuday Dad, was nearby, about 1km behind the ridge on the left of the photo. Photo: Jon Stephenson

The book, Hit & Run, by investigative journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, said six civilians died and 15 were injured in the raid in 2010, led by New Zealand troops accompanied by American and Afghan forces.

Former Cabinet Minister Wayne Mapp.

Wayne Mapp Photo: Supplied / Parliament

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has rejected the book's conclusions and said it stood by an investigation carried out by Afghan and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials.

Dr Mapp was Defence Minister at the time of the raid on the two Afghan villages.

When asked in 2011 whether there had been any civilian deaths, he said that had been investigated and he was satisfied there had been none.

In a statement made from his office at the Law Commission this morning, Dr Mapp said he had not read the book and it should be the government that responded.

He said he had no comment to make on whether civilians were killed.

Prime Minister Bill English said he would be meeting NZDF officials today and expected to talk to Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating in the next few days.

Mr Brownlee and Lieutenant General Keating made a fleeting visit to Iraq this week.

They arrived back in Dubai this morning and were in Baghdad when Hit & Run was released last night.

Mr English said the NZDF remained satisfied personnel had acted according to the rules of engagement in a "pretty challenging" environment.

"New Zealand's had defence forces in Afghanistan for a long time. We've lost 10 lives there.

"The advice I've had so far are just the Defence Force statement that makes it clear the allegations have been looked into previously by Afghan government and the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

He would be speaking to officials this afternoon. "Taking the opportunity to get advice about the background to the previous inquiry and whether there's anything new in the book which looks at least partially politically motivated. But we want to see if there's anything new."

Mr English was asked for his response to the allegation the 2010 raid was carried out as a result of intelligence gathered by New Zealand and under a New Zealand-led operation.

"There seems to be a range of assertions made in the book. They seem to be partially politically motivated, unnamed sources and so on - so we're not going to be rushed into a inquiry on the basis of that."

Based on the advice he had to hand, he could not say how detailed an investigation was carried out by Afghan authorities and the ISAF into the raid.

A public law expert, Professor Andrew Geddis, said the investigation carried out by Afghan and ISAF officials was not good enough.

Prof Geddis said there should be an independent inquiry in New Zealand, as the NZDF statement that it was satisfied with the initial investigation ws no longer sufficient.

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