2 Aug 2013

Payments over Afghan killings defended

9:05 pm on 2 August 2013

The Defence Minister says payments made to the families of Afghan security guards killed by New Zealand SAS soldiers in Afghanistan is not an admission of wrongdoing.

Jonathan Coleman.

Jonathan Coleman. Photo: RNZ

In 2010, two Afghan security guards were killed while on duty at the Tiger International munitions factory in Kabul when it was stormed by the troops in a night-time raid.

A Defence Force investigation cleared the SAS soldiers of wrongdoing because the security guards fired upon them first and they acted in self-defence.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said on Friday that payments of $US10,000 to the families of the security guards were made about eight weeks later to restore goodwill.

Dr Coleman said it was a way to make amends but not an admission of wrongdoing, because the SAS soldiers didn't do anything wrong. He said they were laying down a cordon for international forces.

Prime Minister John Key says it was a terribly unfortunate incident and that it's not unusual for "cultural payments" to be made.

"It's a terribly unfortunate incident and two people lost their lives, as I understand it, but they were cultural payments that were made. There was gunfire on both sides ... but it's not unusual in that circumstance for payments to be made."

Dr Coleman says there is no evidence the SAS soldiers were not following protocols and says more details of the operation may be released at some point.

A filmmaker is questioning information SAS troops were relying on when they stormed the munitions factory.

Annie Goldson is one of the makers of a documentary He Toki Huna about New Zealand in Afghanistan, which features the story of the deaths and subsequent payments.

Dr Goldson said it is unclear whose control the SAS was operating under and what intelligence they were using when they approached the munitions factory.

"They were actually scared of the Taliban when the New Zealand SAS arrived because Tiger International has been working with Westerners. They thought they were under Taliban attack."