Lawmakers demand inquiry into Afghan deaths in New Zealand military raid

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Wellington, March 22 (IANS) New Zealand lawmakers on Wednesday called for an independent probe into allegations that the country’s special forces troops killed unarmed civilians in a raid in Afghanistan in 2010, a media report said.

Investigative journalists Nicky Hager and John Stephenson alleged in their book, “Hit and Run,” released on Tuesday, that the Special Air Service (SAS) and US forces killed six civilians including a 3-year-old girl in a New Zealand-led raid on two villages, Xinhua news agency reported.

Another 15 civilians were injured in the action in Afghanistan’s Baghlan province where the SAS mistakenly believed they would find insurgents who had attacked a New Zealand patrol 19 days earlier, killing a New Zealand officer, in neighbouring Bamiyan.

“If there is nothing to hide, then there is nothing stopping (Prime Minister) Bill English from announcing a full, independent inquiry into these allegations today,” the opposition Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said in a statement.

“Full transparency from the government is the only way we’re going to find out exactly what happened. Refusing to comment and refusing to investigate won’t make these allegations go away.”

Leader of the opposition Winston Peters from New Zealand First party said the allegations could not be left to stand without proper investigation.

“What New Zealand must do is appoint a respected and trustworthy individual who the public can have faith in, and get the inquiry under way immediately,” Peters said in a statement.

An investigation just after the raid by a joint Afghan Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assessment team, in accordance with ISAF procedures found allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded, but critics say that the investigation was a cover-up.

The government has repeatedly denied reports of innocents being killed in the raid.

Information in the book was given by present and former New Zealand, Afghan and US military personnel and had been cross-checked, while people from the Afghan villages that were raided had also assisted, said the authors.

–IANS

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