A major article by David Fisher in this morning's Herald adds important new information to the story told in the book Hit and Run, by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson. David has interviewed an SAS soldier who, although not on the controversial raid himself, had detailed knowledge about it.
1. The SAS soldier confirmed that SAS snipers shot two people during the raid. The book names two people who appeared to have been shot by SAS snipers – they had been killed by bullets not helicopter weapons – but explained that this needed confirmation. The men shot may have included a “very,very poor” farmer named Abdul Qayoom, who left behind a wife and four children, and almost certainly included a recently graduated young school teacher named Islamuddin, who had returned home for a holiday to see his family before taking his first teaching job. A villager said that “His father told me that Islamuddin hoped to become the headmaster of a school so he could help the people in his area.”
2. The SAS soldier also told David Fisher that a New Zealand SAS “Joint Terminal Air Controller” – the person on the ground who directs air attacks – was with the SAS force in the Tirgiran Valley during the raid and called in the air attacks. This information is further confirmation that the SAS and New Zealand Defence Force are responsible for the civilian deaths caused by air attacks. Some government responses to the tragedy have hinted that the blame can be pushed onto the US pilots. David Fisher's article reports that the SAS Joint Terminal Air Controller subsequently received a medal for his actions during the raid and that, when the SAS became aware of the civilian casualties, some of his colleagues believed he ought to give the medal back.
3. The Herald story confirms other major features of the story in the book: the civilian deaths, the faulty intelligence used and the mistake of seeing scared families running from their houses and thinking they were armed formations of insurgents. Like the SAS and other New Zealand military sources in the book, the Herald's SAS source said the SAS members felt uncomfortable about their actions leading to civilian deaths.