Chief of Defence Force LTGEN Tim Keating
26 March 2017
The central premise of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book, Hit and Run, is incorrect, says the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating.
NZDF troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book as having been the scene of combat operations and civilian casualties.
Since the release of the book, the New Zealand Defence Force has spent considerable time reviewing the claims contained in it, despite the allegations of civilian casualties being the subject of a NATO investigation in 2010.
Upon review of Hit and Run, it is evident there are some major inaccuracies – the main one being the location and names of the villages where the authors claim civilians were killed and property was destroyed wilfully during a New Zealand-led operation.
The villages are named in the book as Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, but the NZDF can confirm that NZDF personnel have never operated in these villages.
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 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.
During Operation Burnham, New Zealand was supported by coalition partners, which included air support capacity as previously reported.
The ISAF investigation determined that a gun sight malfunction on a coalition helicopter resulted in several rounds falling short, missing the intended target and instead striking two buildings.
This investigation concluded that this may have resulted in civilian casualties but no evidence of this was established.
Hit and Run does not prove civilian casualties were sustained in the village where Operation Burnham took place.
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 welcomes anyone with information relevant to Operation Burnham to come forward and be assured that any allegations of offending by NZDF personnel would be taken seriously and investigated in accordance with our domestic and international legal obligations.