SAS raid still fes­ters for fam­ily


The par­ents of a girl who they say was killed dur­ing an SAS raid in Afghanistan have spo­ken of their heart­break and made a plea to the New Zealand Gov­ern­ment.

‘‘When I see the pic­ture, I feel like my heart is ex­plod­ing,’’ her fa­ther says, as he glances at a pho­to­graph of 3-year-old Fa­tima. ‘‘She was not just a daugh­ter, she had be­come a real sweet­heart.’’

He and his wife are call­ing for an in­quiry into what hap­pened dur­ing the in­ci­dent in Au­gust 2010, which was the sub­ject of the book Hit & Run.

A doc­tor who treated the wounded af­ter the raid has also backed an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

‘‘[New Zealand] should send their best high-rank­ing del­e­ga­tion to Kabul so that I can bring all of the wounded peo­ple and fam­i­lies of the dead so they in­ves­ti­gate this case,’’ the doc­tor told Stuff Cir­cuit.

In a tragic de­vel­op­ment, the doc­tor was re­cently cap­tured by the Tal­iban, and killed.

His killing pre­vented Stuff Cir­cuit from re­port­ing Fa­tima’s par­ents’ com­ments, un­til it could be ver­i­fied they were safe. They have now con­firmed that in spite of their re­newed fear of the Tal­iban, they still want the story of the death of their daugh­ter told.

The death of Fa­tima was re­vealed in Hit & Run, which said New Zealand spe­cial forces led a raid tar­get­ing in­sur­gents who had killed a Kiwi sol­dier from the Bamyan-based Pro­vin­cial Re­con­struc­tion Team.

The book, by Jon Stephen­son and Nicky Hager, said United States Apache heli­copters un­der the di­rec­tion of an SAS of­fi­cer fired upon homes in the re­mote vil­lages in the Tir­gi­ran Val­ley in a raid called Oper­a­tion Burn­ham. It said an SAS trooper on the ground also shot one young man who was flee­ing the scene.

It also said no in­sur­gents were killed. In­stead, six civil­ians died and an­other 15 were wounded. De­tails of the raid had been cov­ered up, the book said.

Af­ter the re­lease of the book in March, Chief of De­fence Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tim Keat­ing con­firmed a raid called Oper­a­tion Burn­ham had taken place.

But he dis­puted key facts, say­ing the lo­ca­tion of the at­tack named in the book was wrong, and that nine peo­ple – not six – had been killed, and that they were in­sur­gents.

He ac­knowl­edged civil­ians may have been killed, due to a mal­func­tion in the he­li­copter weapons sys­tem, but said this had not been con­firmed. The De­fence Force had pre­vi­ously said al­le­ga­tions of civil­ian deaths were ‘‘un­founded’’.

Prime Min­is­ter Bill English, af­ter be­ing briefed by Keat­ing, re­jected calls for an in­quiry into the raid.

But in an in­ter­view in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, who was pres­i­dent of Afghanistan at the time of the 2010 raid, told Stuff Cir­cuit, ‘‘I hope New Zealand would do the right thing, as it’s a coun­try that we re­spect and we be­lieve it stands on cer­tain prin­ci­ples, and it has cer­tain val­ues – and that is you do the right thing.

‘‘So, we hope there will be an in­ves­ti­ga­tion; a fact-find­ing mis­sion to find out the truth.’’

The doc­tor who treated the wounded told Stuff Cir­cuit that fail­ing to carry out an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and apol­o­gise for what hap­pened was a breach of hu­man rights.

‘‘The [Western] world is shout­ing, [in Afghanistan] ‘Don’t breach hu­man rights and women’s rights.’ This is against hu­man rights. When they harm hu­mans, when they hurt, tor­ture or kill non-mil­i­tants.’’

He says when he went to the vil­lage af­ter the raid it was a ‘‘ter­ri­ble and fright­en­ing scene’’.

‘‘There were help­less peo­ple, women and chil­dren, in an emer­gency con­di­tion, in a dis­tress­ing sit­u­a­tion. The dead and wounded had not been dealt with. The rest of the peo­ple was afraid; they thought there might be an­other un­ex­pected bomb­ing.’’

The mother de­scribed what hap­pened to her daugh­ter.

‘‘Fa­tima was be­side me. She was hit by shrap­nel in the head and I was dis­ori­en­tated. When I be­came con­scious, I re­alised her soul had al­ready left her body.

‘‘Poor peo­ple were killed. There were no Tal­iban or mil­i­tants. My daugh­ter was killed.’’

Three-year-old Fa­tima.

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