Killed girl's parents demand NZ Government inquiry
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 three-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 the need for 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 did acknowledge that 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 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."
Both she and her husband were certain no insurgents were killed that night.
"Poor people were killed. There were no Taliban or militants. My daughter was killed."
The doctor too said there were no insurgents killed, and challenged the New Zealand Government to go to Afghanistan to find out for itself.
"Once you meet the wounded and see their scars you will understand this better, and you could ask about three-year-old Fatima, how she was killed and how poor her family was. If [New Zealand] doesn't accept this then they are breaching international law. We are powerless. If you want the truth, this is the truth."
* Afghanistan interviews arranged by Jon Stephenson, associate producer of The Valley.
- Stuff Circuit