SAS ‘atrocity’ book authors accuse PM of allowing issue to ‘fester’

Cartoon: Malcolm Evans/TDB

The authors of the controversial investigative book Hit & Run have accused Prime Minister Bill English of ensuring the allegations of a New Zealand SAS atrocity in Afghanistan in 2010 will “boil and fester” until an independent inquiry takes place.

The co-authors, Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, also criticised the prime minister for taking the “next step in the seven-year cover-up” by rejecting an inquiry.

The book has alleged six civilians were killed and 15 injured in a “revenge” raid after the first death of New Zealand soldier in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell on August 4, 2010.

“In the past two weeks since Hit & Run was published, there have been calls for an independent inquiry from New Zealanders from all sides on the political spectrum,” said Hager.

“It is disappointing and concerning that Bill English has refused.

“When the book came out, Jon Stephenson and I emphasised that Bill English had no responsibility for the deeds done in 2010 and so was in a good position to offer aid to the Afghan villages and launch a proper inquiry. But he has joined the people trying to hide and dodge over what happened.

“I believe this decision is the result of military pressure on the government: the tail wagging the dog. That is not good for the country.

“Bill English is an experienced minister who knows the difference between being shown selective information by an interested party, as he has been by the Defence Force, and having an independent inquiry.

“This does not appear a rational decision based on evidence; it is helping the military bureaucracy to avoid having to front up. It is the next step in the seven-year cover-up.

“But, most of all, Bill English has just ensured that the issue will continue to boil and fester. It is not going to go away until it is properly addressed.”

After receiving Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Tim Keating’s advice that troops involved in the raids met the “benchmark” of acting according to the rules of engagement, Prime Minister English yesterday watched video footage taken from aircraft involved in the 2010 raids in Afghanistan’s Baghlan province, reports The New Zealand Herald.

The classified video he saw confirmed the “extensive steps, restraint and care” that forces took to minimise the chances of civilian casualties, English said.

English would not go into detail about what the footage showed and said it would not be publicly released.

He did not watch footage of the whole operation but was confident in what he saw.

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