20 Jul 2013

NZ munitions may have been left behind - UN agency

8:15 pm on 20 July 2013

The Defence Force is investigating claims by a United Nations agency that munitions which have killed civilians may have been left behind by New Zealand personnel in Afghanistan.

The UN's Mine Action Service Office in the Afghan capital, Kabul, says coalition forces withdrawing from the country are failing to properly clean up their closed bases and firing ranges.

It says an average of 30 civilians a month are killed by mines or other remnants of war throughout the country. Programme manager Abigail Hartley says one clean-up team near Bamiyan found about 500 items, including grenades and shells.

Ms Hartley says the International Security Assistance Force has not been forthcoming with information about base locations, although she says the New Zealand ambassador in Kabul has undertaken to provide the necessary information.

Defence chief Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones says he is confident New Zealand troops removed all munitions from their base in Bamiyan province, but says they will take full responsibility if the investigation shows otherwise.

After similar claims were made three weeks ago, Lieutenant-General Jones said an investigation found the ordnances were of Russian and Chinese origin.