30 Dec 2010

NZ soldiers 'had doubts' about deadly raid on factory

12:28 pm on 30 December 2010

A man inside a building targeted in a deadly raid in Afghanistan says New Zealand soldiers admitted they had doubts about the operation.

The Defence Force has confirmed members of the elite SAS were involved, but is unable to say how many.

Two security guards were killed and two people injured during the raid in the capital Kabul on Christmas Eve.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force says the patrol fired in self-defence and was acting on a report of a credible threat to the United States embassy.

Factory owner Nawid Shah Sakhizada told Radio New Zealand he was with workers in the factory when shooting began about 12.30am on 24 December (local time).

Mr Sakhizada says he knew those involved were from New Zealand because of their uniform.

He said soldiers he understood to be New Zealanders apologised after the troops had made an extensive search, saying they had had doubts about the operation and found nothing.

Journalist Jerome Starkey from Britain's The Times broke the story.

He told Radio New Zealand Mr Sakhizada claims New Zealand soldiers warned him to stay away from the media because of the sensitivity of the raids.

But Mr Sakhizada decided to speak out after NATO claimed the guards who died were terrorists.

Mr Sakhizada says the factory does not have any links with the Taliban.

'Credible threat' to embassy

The International Security Assistance Force insists that proper protocols and engagement rules were followed.

However, officials in Afghanistan are said to be enraged and claim that is not the case.

A spokesperson for the ISAF, Captain Ryan Donald, says the patrol was acting on a report of a "credible threat" to the United States embassy.

"Once we arrived there we set up a cordon and we started to receive fire. Once we received fire we immediately returned fire, killing two of the shooters. A third armed person was seen running into the building nearby."

Captain Donald disputes suggestions that there was a failure to alert Afghan authorities the operation was about to take place.

New Zealand's Defence Force used a days-old ISAF release when issuing its own media statement on Wednesday.

It says it is not intending to comment further, but will be closely following an investigation.