WELLINGTON, March 21 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand military and government covered up a botched raid by special forces that left six civilians dead and 15 wounded in Afghanistan in 2010, according to a book released Tuesday.
The book, "Hit and Run,' by investigative journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, detailed the response of New Zealand's Special Air Service (SAS) to the first New Zealander dying in combat in August 2010.
This included an SAS attack on two isolated villages in Afghanistan's Baghlan province where they mistakenly believed they would find the insurgents who had attacked a New Zealand patrol 19 days earlier in neighboring Bamiyan.
SAS officers commanded and led the attack, supported by U.S. and Afghan forces.
The insurgent group was not there, but at least 21 civilians were killed and injured many of them women and children and the SAS and U.S. forces burned and blew up about a dozen houses, said the book.
The SAS also failed to help the wounded, it claimed.
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and government tried to keep the civilian casualties a secret and had repeatedly denied reports of innocents killed in the raids.
Information in the book was given by present and former New Zealand, Afghan and U.S. military personnel and had been cross-checked, while people from the Afghan villages that were raided had also assisted, said the authors.
The authors issued a statement calling for a full and independent inquiry into the actions described in the book, which, if confirmed, would seriously breach international law.
"Whether or not the public agreed with New Zealand sending troops to the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, there is no doubt that what the SAS did was wrong and betrayed the defense force's core values of courage, commitment and integrity," they said.
"All this happened in New Zealand's name, in an operation commanded by New Zealanders, by people whose salaries are paid for by the New Zealand public. Our soldiers' actions, and those of their U.S. allies, alienated locals and led many to join or support the insurgents and was a key factor in the Taliban gaining complete control of the area."
The NZDF issued a statement late Tuesday saying it stood by a statement it made on April 20, 2011.
"As the 2011 statement says, following the operation, allegations of civilian casualties were made. These were investigated by a joint Afghan Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the Interior and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assessment team, in accordance with ISAF procedures," it said.
"The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded," it said.
"The NZDF is confident that New Zealand personnel conducted themselves in accordance with the applicable rules of engagement."