Journalist tells of Rainbow Warrior bombing, Pacific fallout on ABC

Journalist, media educator and author David Robie … Rainbow Warrior bombing reflections after 33 years. Image: PMC

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Pacific environmental and political journalist David Robie has recalled the bombing of the original Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior 33 years ago in an interview with host Sarah Macdonald on the ABC’s Nightlife programme.

Dr Robie, now professor of journalism and director of the Pacific Media Centre at Auckland University of Technology, wrote the 1986 book Eyes Of Fire: Last Voyage of the Rainbow Warrior that has been published in four countries and five editions.

LISTEN: Terrorism in Auckland in 1985

The 2015 edition of Eyes of Fire with the Rongelap evacuation on the cover. Image: LIP

He was awarded the 1985 Media Peace Prize by the NZ Peace Foundation for his coverage.

He spoke of the humanitarian voyage of the Rainbow Warrior to Rongelap Atoll in the Marshall Islands to fetch the islanders to safety in a four-voyage relocation mission.

The Rongelao community had been ravaged by the fallout and the long-term health impact of US nuclear testing.

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His reflections were broadcast in a 23-minute programme broadcast at the weekend marking the bombing by French secret agents on 10 July 1985.

David Robie’s cover story for the Fiji-based Islands Business on the Rainbow Warrior bombing in August 1985. Image: PMC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Indonesian military joint plan for greater role in counterterrorism

Members from the Indonesian military’s Armoured Division take part in a parade to mark the 72nd anniversary of the Indonesian military’s founding in Cilegon on October 5, 2017. Image: The Jakarta Post/Ricardo/AFP

By Marguerite Afra Sapiie and Nurul Fitri Ramadhani in Jakarta

Indonesia’s Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko has claimed that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had expressed his consent to bringing back to life the suspended military Joint Special Operations Command (Koopsusgab) tasked with countering terrorism.

The team, which included and will again include personnel of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus), the Navy’s Denjaka squad and the Air Force’s Bravo 90 special force, would be put on standby and be ready to be mobilised at any time when terror threats emerged, Moeldoko said.

“This joint force was well trained and prepared in terms of its capacity, and it could be deployed anywhere on the country’s soil as fast as possible […]. Its role would be to assist the National Police,” Moeldoko said.

READ MORE: Jokowi to issue perppu if House fails to revise terror law

His statement has followed a recent string of terrorist attacks that has thrust Indonesia into a state of paranoia.

The joint force was first established under Moeldoko when he served as the Indonesian Military (TNI) commander in 2015. The special command’s operations, however, were suspended under the leadership of Moeldoko’s successor, retired General Gatot Nurmantyo.

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Further tasks of the special command would be discussed between TNI commander Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto and National Police chief General Tito Karnavian, with the latter to have the final say on whether it needed the assistance of the TNI’s special team or not, Moeldoko said.

“This operation must be carried out for preventive purposes, so that the public can feel safe […]. We [the security apparatus] are ready to face any kind of situation, so people should put their trust in us and not worry,” he said.

Planned amendment
The revitalisation of the joint force did not require any new regulations, Moeldoko said, adding that the details about the command’s tasks would be adjusted with the planned amendment to the 2003 Terrorism Law.

The announcement came as the House of Representatives and the government began to clear up contentious articles that had caused deadlock in the deliberation of the Terrorism Law revision, including the legal definition of terrorism and the military’s level of involvement in counterterrorism operations.

A greater level of involvement has stirred debate among experts and human rights activists.

Seven ruling parties and the government had agreed on a definition of terrorism that included acts that had “political and ideological motives and threaten national security”, United Development Party (PPP) lawmaker Arsul Sani said.

More leeway
It is widely believed that such a definition would provide leeway for greater involvement of the TNI in counterterrorism efforts.

As the government and the lawmakers appear to be on the same page now, observers expect the bill to be passed into law in the near future.

Jokowi has recently said he would issue a regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) on the Terrorism Law if the House failed to conclude deliberations on the bill by June.

Members of a committee tasked with deliberating the bill said it was the leading opposition Gerindra Party and the Democratic Party, both political parties with strong military influence, that had demanded the inclusion of the contentious provisions.

“We support [the terrorism bill],” Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto said during his visit to the House.

Deliberation of the bill is believed to have been stalled mainly because of a tug-of-war between the TNI and the police, which led to division among political parties factions into pro-TNI and pro-police camps.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Jale Moala: Fiji’s longest day – George Speight and the march of madness

BRIEFING: By Jale Moala in Port Moresby

MAY 19, 2000: As editor of the Fiji Daily Post newspaper in Suva, I was expecting some big stories that day but nothing like what happened – today, 18 years ago. A march by radical indigenous Fijians had been planned and Parliament was sitting, with an Indo-Fijian Prime Minister leading the government benches.

My news editor and I made sure we had everyone in place, then went for breakfast.

Back in the newsroom I was told the march was getting violent and continuing on to Parliament, which got me worried. I quickly drove to pick up the children and, after seeing them home safely, returned to work, knowing for sure that I wasn’t going to be home for dinner.

Fiji had crashed into another coup, this time led by a man called George Speight and rogue soldiers from the Fiji Military Forces’ elite Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit (CRWU).

There was an eerie calm in the newsroom, almost like the lull before a storm with people seeming to be expecting something bad to happen but pretending to be going about a normal day.

I quietly disappeared into the tearoom to make coffee. The sound of breaking glass brought me out and I said to myself, perhaps someone has broken something.

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From my experience of past coups in Fiji I knew that there was always going to be violence no matter how much the coup perpetrators tried to paint over their actions using a noble brush.

Two sides
There were always two sides to the argument and one side was always going to get hurt, but even then I had not expected to see what I saw that day, with the situation deteriorating as quickly as I was seeing.

In a matter of minutes, maybe a short 30 minutes or less since I returned to the newsroom, our part of Suva had turned from nothing much to a seething, angry pit of senseless violence — all in the time it took to make a cup of coffee.

Hundreds of people, maybe a thousand even, I don’t know, filled the streets below our second-floor vantage point.

Shops were burning and men and women were smashing through glass windows and doors and looting every shop on the streets below.

A group of men led the way, breaking through doors and windows then moving on, allowing the throng behind to get in and take as they pleased in a free-for-all scramble for anything that could be carried away – TVs, shoes, clothes, stereo sets, food, anything.

There was cursing and shouting and the noise was deafening and frightening. The sound of breaking glass would haunt me for months after that.

Indo-Fijians had abandoned the city and fled for their lives, and many who had been unable to leave had gone into hiding in back rooms and anywhere, leaving their business at the mercy of this maddest march of madness; a few Indo-Fijians drove by still trying to get out, and some of them were forced to stop, dragged out of their car and assaulted.

I was really scared
I was scared, really scared, especially for the Indo-Fijian members of our staff. Our financial controller was Indo-Fijian, and a big man too, but when he came up to me in the newsroom and put out his hand, I knew he was afraid for his life and when I held his hand I felt him trembling.

Indo-Fijian members of the staff, especially women, like my young reporters, fresh out of university, had crawled under desks, crying, “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die”.

Our newsroom was quickly turning into a sanctuary, too, with owners of shops and anyone nearby who had been slow to leave the city, seeking safety there. We called the police several times but no one came.

Our marketing manager, Lionel Heffernan, was a big man ­– strong — a farmer on his days off, and he walked up the stairs into the newsroom armed with a crowbar, presenting me with the first sign of a willingness to fight back.

We knew we had to do something, we had to protect our staff. We called all our indigenous Fijian staff members and briefed them and together we walked downstairs in silence.

Our offices were down a short alleyway and accessible only from the front, from the main street where the burning and looting were taking place.

Stood together in defiance
We closed the grill gate and everyone of us, men and women, stood together in defiance, completely blocking any access to our offices, and thereby providing as much protection as we could to those on the second floor.

Heffernan stood beside me, the crowbar clearly visible in his hand, saying words of encouragement.

There were men and women beside me with far more courage and strength than I could ever muster in several lifetimes and without them the outcome would have been very different. But the weak and the strong and the older and the young, we stood together that day, indigenous Fijians facing up to indigenous Fijians, until the sun started to go down and soldiers arrived to set up roadblocks and empty the streets.

Police Commissioner Isikia Savua and his officers finally turned up in a pointless show of useless force after the damage had been done and no one was about. Suva was already in ruins.

It was too dangerous after that to put out a newspaper, so we cancelled that night’s edition and, using only indigenous Fijian drivers, dropped everyone home, including those who had come off the street to seek safety.

As a journalist it is my job to report and not to judge but the events I witnessed that day affected me in ways that would swing me to one side and keep me there for a long time.

George Speight … jailed for life. Image: File

Terrorist act
That day was not political. It was a criminal and terrorist act and I decided that from then onwards our coverage of George Speight and the events that would follow would focus on terrorism, even though I knew that the course I was taking would bring me into a collision course with the terrorists themselves, some of whom I knew well, including Speight himself.

Finally darkness enveloped Suva and I got into the car and left. At home, my wife Maureen had used the beds to barricade the windows and put the children and everyone else to sleep on the floor in the hallway.

I walked in and hugged and kissed her then went down on my knees and kissed all our children and all the other children on the forehead.

Then I sat down and cried. A month later to the day, on June 19, 2000, I walked into The Southland Times newsroom in Invercargill, New Zealand, and signed on as a subeditor.

Jale Moala, one of Fiji’s most experienced and talented journalists, is currently night editor of The National daily newspaper in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. George Speight is currently serving a life sentence in prison for treason.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

What is JAD? Indonesian terror group behind Surabaya church bombings

A Jakarta Post video collage of images from the bomb attack has been reported at Surabaya police headquarters on Sunday just hours after bomb attacks on three churches in the city earlier in the day.

Karina M. Tehusijarana and Moses Ompusunggu in Jakarta

Multiple deadly bombings in East Java and the brutal killing of six Indonesian police officers at the Mobile Brigade headquarters (Mako Brimob) in Depok, West Java, which took place within less than a week, have catapulted Jamaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD) into notoriety.

JAD, the largest Indonesian terror group pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group, has played a significant role in the terror attacks.

“[The attacks] are connected to JAD, which is the main supporter of ISIS in Indonesia and was founded by Aman Abdurrahman,” National Police chief General Tito Karnavian has confirmed.

A family of suicide bombers linked to JAD attacked three churches across Surabaya on Sunday morning, killing at least 12 people and injuring 41 others.

Two attempted bombings were reported at two other churches in the East Java capital.

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Later the same day, another explosion was reported at a low-cost apartment in the neighboring city of Sidoarjo. The latest attack took place on Monday morning, when a bomb exploded at the Surabaya Police headquarters.

In total, 25 people, including 13 suicide bombers, were killed and dozens injured in the series of bombings in Surabaya, which resembled the pattern of attacks carried out by the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) movement at dozens of churches across Indonesia at the start of the millennium.

JI is said to have renounced violent jihad, leaving pro-IS group JAD as the most lethal terror group in the archipelago.

But what is JAD? And how influential is its founder, Aman?

Aman Abdurrahman, the alleged mastermind of the January 14, 2016, suicide bombings and gun attacks on Jl. MH Thamrin, Central Jakarta, during a court hearing in South Jakarta District Court on February 15. Image: Nursita Sari/kompas.com

ISIS supporters
But what is JAD? And how influential is its founder, Aman?

The Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) calls JAD “the largest faction of ISIS supporters in Indonesia,” consisting of followers of pro-IS ideologue Aman and Jamaah Anshorul Tauhid (JAT) leader Abu Bakar Baasyir.

The term JAD, which means “Partisans of the [Islamic] State Group,” was previously a generic term referring to anyone who had sworn allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but is now specifically used by a group that was formed in Malang in November 2015 and has chosen Aman as its ideological head.

Aman was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2004 after a failed terror plot in Depok, West Java, and was released for good behavior in 2008.

Soon after his release, Aman collaborated with Ba’asyir to form a joint terrorism training camp in Aceh in 2010 that united the different terrorist groups, leading to another prison sentence of nine years.

Despite being behind bars, Aman has been accused of involvement in several other terrorist attacks across Indonesia, including masterminding the deadly January 14, 2016, Thamrin attacks in Central Jakarta.

The firebrand cleric, who graduated from the Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies (LIPIA), was also allegedly involved in the May 25, 2017, bombings in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta, that killed three policemen.

Aman and his followers believe that all security forces of an ansharut thoghut (idolatrous state) should be considered kafir (non-believers), whose property can be seized and blood can be shed.

Syrian obligation
After the declaration of the Islamic State by al-Baghdadi at Mosul, Iraq in June 2014, Aman believed that the Hegira, or emigration to Syria, was the obligation of all ISIS supporters.

Shortly before the 2016 Thamrin attacks Aman issued a fatwa that was widely circulated among extremist groups:

“Emigrate to the Islamic State and if you cannot emigrate, then wage jihad with spirit wherever you are, and if you cannot wage war or you lack the courage to do so, then contribute your wealth to those who are willing to do so. And if you cannot contribute, then urge others to undertake jihad. And if you cannot do that, then what is the meaning of your loyalty oath [bai’at]?”

The terror inmates who rioted last Tuesday evening at the Mako Brimob detention center reportedly demanded to speak with Aman, who is being held at the facility, during initial negotiations with police officers, a demand that the police later met.

The police, Tito said, suspected that the Surabaya bombings were motivated by the police’s actions in arresting leaders of JAD.

“They reacted [to the arrests] by carrying out retaliatory attacks, such as that which occurred at Mako Brimob.”

The terrorists’ decision to launch the attacks in Surabaya, Tito said, may have been related to the recent conviction of the leader of JAD’s East Java chapter, Zaenal Anshari, for smuggling weapons to Indonesian militants in the southern Philippines.

Zaenal is the second-in-command in JAD after Aman.

Orchestrated attacks
The incidents in Depok and Surabaya were part of a number of recent terror attacks or attempted attacks allegedly orchestrated by JAD-linked militants.

Residents stand next to human body parts at a scene where two bombers launched an attack at Kampung Melayu bus terminal in East Jakarta on May 25, 2017. ADEK BERRY / AFPResidents stand next to human body parts at a scene where two bombers launched an attack at Kampung Melayu bus terminal in East Jakarta on May 25, 2017. ADEK BERRY / AFP (AFP/Adek Berry)

Since the Thamrin bombings in January 2016, counterterror officials have thwarted numerous attempted attacks by suspects affiliated with JAD in various regions across Indonesia.

In January 2017, the US State Department said it had designated JAD as a terrorist group, which in practice prohibits US citizens from being involved with it.

The deadly riot at Mako Brimob, which led to a 36-hour standoff between terror inmates and security forces, and the string of bombings in East Java, may have shown that the group has ramped up its capability to launch terror attacks.

Karina M. Tehusijarana and Moses Ompusunggu are reporters of The Jakarta Post.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Blood in the Pacific: 30 years on from the Ouvéa Island cave massacre

SPECIAL REPORT: By Max Uechtritz

On Saturday, 30 years ago in 1988, I smelled death for the first time – literally.

A sickening, almost suffocating, stench assaulted my nostrils in a dank cave where 21 men – 19 Kanak militants and two French military – had been killed the previous day in what lives on infamously as the “Ouvéa Island massacre” in New Caledonia.

Our feet sunk deep into the loose layer of moist loam the gendarmes had shovelled from the jungle outside onto the cave floor to cover the blood and waste of the dead.

On what we trod it was impossible to know. I dry retched.

My ABC cameraman Alain Antoine, sound recordist Stewart Palmer and I were the very first of the first group of journalists to be allowed inside the Gossannah cave complex on Ouvéa where the Kanaks had died in an assault by French Special Forces.

We’d been flown from the capital Nouméa in a French military helicopter. As we’d scrambled onto the Ouvéa tarmac we bumped into a giant Kanak prisoner sporting red shorts, yellow T shirt and manacles being led the other way by French military (pictured below).

A Kanak militant being led away in handcuffs by French securiuty forces on Ouvéa Island in May 1988. Image: revolutionpermanente.fr

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A few days earlier on the main island I experienced for the first of many times in my career the shock of having a cocked, loaded gun pointed at me. We’d happened upon the helicopter evacuation of a French officer wounded in an ambush. He later died.

Not worth shooting
A frightened, angry adrenalin-charged soldier raced up to our car screaming and pointing his automatic weapon before being calmed by a superior who chose to believe we were civilian journalists, not rebels and not worth shooting.

They were tense days.

The Ouvéa event is still cloaked in controversy (French President Emmanuel Macron visited Ouvéa yesterday for the 30th anniversary but, under pressure from families of the dead, refrained from laying a wreath at the graves of the 19 Kanaks).

The action and its context is described by respected Pacific author David Robie in Pacific Journalism Review (2012, pp. 214-215):

“I wrote the following in my book Blood on their Banner[1989, pp. 275-278] – the “blood” being that symbolised by the Kanak flag as being shed by the martyrs of more than a century of French rule:

“Mounting tension as the French security forces were built up in New Caledonia to 9500 for the elections finally erupted on Friday, 22 April 1988, two days before the poll. Kanak militants, arguably the first real guerrilla force in the territory, seized a heavily armed Fayaoué gendarme post on Ouvéa, in the Loyalty Islands.

“Armed with machetes, axes and a handful of sporting guns hidden under their clothes, they killed four gendarmes who resisted, wounded five others and seized 27 as hostages.

“They abducted most of their prisoners to a three-tiered caved in rugged bush country near Gossanah in the north-east of the island; the rest were taken to Mouli in the south.

As almost 300 gendarmes flown to Ouvéa searched for them, the militants demanded that the regional elections be abandoned and that a mediator be flown from France to negotiate for a real referendum on self-determination under United Nations supervision. They threatened to kill their hostages if their demands were not met.

“Declaring on Radio Djiido that he was dismayed by the attack, Tjibaou blamed it on the “politics of violence” adopted by the Chirac government against the Kanak people.

“‘The [colonial] plunderers refuse to recognise their subversive lead,’ he said. ‘From the moment they stole our country, they have tried to eliminate everybody who denounces their evil deeds. It has been like that since colonialism began.’

Appeal for calm
“(French President) Mitterrand appealed for calm and a halt to spiral of violence; (Premier) Chirac condemned the ‘savage brutality’ of the attack, claiming the guerrillas were ‘probably full of drugs and alcohol’.

“The guerrillas freed 11 hostages but remained hidden in their Wadrilla cache with the others. Another hostage, who was ill, was later released.

“[French Minister for Territorial Affairs Bernard] Pons portrayed the guerrilla leader, Alphonse Dianou, as a ‘Libyan-trained religious fanatic’. In fact, he had trained at a Roman Catholic seminary in Fiji and was regarded by people who knew him as ‘a reflective man, found of books and non-violent’. He spent hours explaining to his captives why they had been seized.

“At dawn on Thursday, May 5, French military and special forces launched their attack on the Ouvéa cave and killed 19 Kanaks in what was reported by the authorities to be a fierce battle. The hostages were freed for the loss of only two French soldiers.

“If the military authorities were to be believed, their casualties were from the 11th Shock Unit of the DGSE. (This unit was formerly the Service Action squad, used to bomb the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour on 10 July 1985).

“The assault came just three days before the crucial presidential vote, and hours after three French hostages had been freed in Lebanon following the Chirac government’s reported payment of a massive ransom.

“To top it off, convicted Rainbow Warrior bomber Dominique Prieur, now pregnant, was repatriated back from Hao Atoll to France.

Massacre ‘engineered’

Leaders of the [pro-independence] FLNKS immediately challenged the official version of the attack. Léopold Jorédie issued a statement in which he questioned how the “Ouvéa massacre left 19 dead among the nationalists and no one injured” and the absence of bullet marks on the trees and empty cartridges on the ground at the site”.

Yéiwene Yéiwene insisted that at no time did the kidnappers intend to kill the hostages – ‘this whole massacre was engineered by Bernard Pons who knew very well there was never any question of killing the hostages”. Nidoish Naisseline also condemned the action:

“Pons and Chirac have behaved like assassins. I accuse them of murder. They could have avoided the butchery. They preferred to buy votes of [Nationalist Front leader] Le Pen’s friends with Kanak blood.”

The Ouvéa assault on 5 May 1988.

The following extract sums up claims and counter claims:

According to a later report of Captain Philippe Legorjus, then GIGN leader: “Some acts of barbarity have been committed by the French military in contradiction with their military duty”. In several autopsies, it appeared that 12 of the Kanak activists had been executed and the leader of the hostage-takers, Alphonse Dianou, who was severely injured by a gunshot in the leg, had been left without medical care, and died some hours later. Prior to this report, Captain Philippe Legorjus was accused by many of the GIGN agents who took part in the operation of weaknesses in command and to have had “dangerous absences” (some even said he fled) in the final stages of the case. He was forced to resign from the GIGN after this operation, since nobody wanted him as chief and to fight under him anymore.

The military authorities have always denied the version of events given by Captain Philippe Legorjus. Following a command investigation, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, Minister of Defence of the Michel Rocard government, notes that “no part of the investigation revealed that there had been summary executions”. In addition, according to some participants of the operation interviewed by Le Figaro, no shots were heard on area after the fighting ended.

Legorjus said French Premier Jacques Chirac, who was challenging Mitterrand in the French presidential elections, wanted to stage the assault. And Pons said that he had acted throughout the drama on the orders of Chirac, who believes the “separatist” movement should be outlawed.

Radio NZ on Saturday: “The two-week hostage crisis in 1988 was a turning point in the separatist campaign of the indigenous Kanaks because it ushered in reconciliation talks, which led to the 1988 Matignon Accord.

The Accord and its subsequent 1998 Noumea Accord allowed for the creation of a power-sharing collegial government and the phased and irreversible transfer of power from France to New Caledonia.”

Whatever the truth, the blood of 1988 will stain this territory for a long time yet.

Max Uechtritz is managing director of Kundu Productions Pty Ltd and is republished by Asia Pacific Report with permission. Photos thanks to France TV Outre-Mer and revolutionpermanente.fr

References:
Robie, D. (2012). Gossanah cave siege tragic tale of betrayal. Pacific Journalism Review,  18(2), 212-216.
Robie, D. (1989). Blood on their banner: nationalist struggles in the South Pacific (pp. 275-280). London, UK: Zed Books.

Inside the Gossanah cave on Ouvéa.

Southern Cross radio comment about the Ouvéa visit on 5 May 2018 by President Macron.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

KontraS demands Indonesian police investigate death of terror suspect

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: KontraS demands Indonesian police investigate death of terror suspect

By Riani Sanusi Putri in Jakarta

Indonesia’s Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) has demanded police investigate the cause of death of terrorist suspect Muhammad Jefri in Indramayu.

This is deemed important since the information about his death is unclear and appears to involve a violation of law.

“The case of Muhamad Jefri or MJ is under the authority of National Police’s counterterrorism squad Densus 88,” KontraS coordinator Yati Indriyani said at the weekend.

Jefri was arrested by Densus 88 since he was allegedly involved in a number of terrorism cases.

However, his family mentioned that his arrest was not under an official warrant. Jefri was in good health when the police took him in.

The news of his death was delivered by the police on February 15, 2018, yet he died a week prior. Yati said that this kind of treatment of terrorist suspects would spark controversy since there was no transparency and the authorities neglected human rights (HAM) parameters and the law.

“It is concerned that this will trigger, create or flourish other links of terrorist acts,” Yati said.

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Indonesian soldiers drink snake blood, smash bricks for US Defence Secretary

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Indonesian soldiers drink snake blood, smash bricks for US Defence Secretary

Elite Indonesian troops drink blood from decapitated snakes during a demonstration for US Defence Secretary James Mattis in Jakarta. Image: PMC still from Washington Post video

United States Defence Secretary James Mattis has watched Indonesian special forces smash concrete blocks with their heads, walk barefoot across a flaming log, and drink blood from still-slithering bodies of snakes, reports New York Magazine.

The demonstration came at the end of a three-day visit to Indonesia this week that was part of Mattis’s Southeast Asian tour.

His next stop is Vietnam, where authorities will have trouble following this act, writes Adam K. Raymond.

After several days of meetings, Mattis was apparently ready for the show yesterday.

“The snakes! Did you see them tire them out and then grab them? The way they were whipping them around — a snake gets tired very quickly,” the man known as “Mad Dog” told reporters.

‘Mission Impossible’
The press traveling with the retired US Marine Corps general was only expecting a hostage rescue drill, Reuters reports, but the Indonesians delivered much more:

Wearing a hood to blind him, one knife-wielding Indonesian soldier slashed away at a cucumber sticking out of his colleague’s mouth, coming just inches from striking his nose with the long blade. …

-Partners-

At the end of the demonstration, to the tune of the movie “Mission Impossible,” the Indonesian forces carried out a hostage rescue operation, deploying stealthily from helicopters – with police dogs. The dogs intercepted the gunman.

“Even the dogs coming out of those helicopters knew what to do,” Mattis said after the show.


A Washington Post video clip of the Indonesian special forces event.

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Indonesia beefs up anti-terror police unit to combat ‘extremist’ challenge

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Indonesia beefs up anti-terror police unit to combat ‘extremist’ challenge

Densus 88 special police force … history of repression in West Papua. Graphic: AK Rockefeller

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Indonesia is beefing up its elite Detachment 88 (Densus 88) unit in light of increased threats from local and international terror networks, says National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian.

There will be additional 600 policemen assigned to the squad, bringing the total headcount to 1300, reports The Straits Times.

“We now have Isis, not only Al-Qaeda elements. We are also seeing those who, through the internet, got self-radicalised, learnt how to make bombs and made attack plans,” said General Tito at a media briefing in Jakarta.

“Therefore, the Detatchment 88 must be beefed up.”

General Tito, who was involved in various high-profile terrorist raids when he was a field officer with Detachment 88, said silent operations must be stepped up, meaning more preemptive strikes were needed.

This in turn required higher detection capability, he added.

-Partners-

Tasks within Detatchment 88 are divided into various operations: arrests and raids; investigation and cross examination; interrogation; wiretapping; and evidence handling.

Won praise, condemnation
The unit has won praise for the many raids it has made on militant networks in Indonesia, foiling attacks and arresting terrorist suspects.

However, it has also been heavily criticised for a repressive role in West Papua against indigenous self-determination and civil society groups.

In 2017, Detatchment 88 arrested 154 and killed 16 terrorists during raids, with 14 officers injured and four killed during the raids operations.

The unit made more than 150 arrests in 2016, disrupting terror plots, including the planned launch of rocket attacks on Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands from Batam island.

General Tito also unveiled plans to send more police officers for overseas studies, saying he was inspired by the late Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in his bold move in preventing corruption.

The police force has, for the first time, received an allocation of 120 scholarship positions from the Finance Ministry to send its personnel abroad. This would mean a record number of officers studying overseas in coming years.

Waves of new faces
“We want to have big waves of new faces and a less corrupt culture,” said General Tito.

“When they return to Indonesia, they will have their own community who think the same way and who will be the agents of change. We want to replicate the Singapore concept. This is what Singapore did.”

He noted that when young policemen were sent to the United States, Britain and other countries with a less corrupt culture, they would be shaped accordingly.

The plan is to send 100 of the 300 fresh graduates from the police academy overseas as well as scores of other early-career policemen, he added.

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ANALYSIS: Lieutenant General Tim Keating’s Operation Burnham Account Highlights Key Legal Concerns

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: ANALYSIS: Lieutenant General Tim Keating’s Operation Burnham Account Highlights Key Legal Concerns

By Selwyn Manning – Editor of EveningReport.nz. This analysis was first published on Kiwipolitico.com.

Selwyn Manning, editor EveningReport.nz.
There’s an overlooked aspect of the New Zealand Defence Force’s account of Operation Burnham
that when scrutinised suggests a possible breach of international humanitarian law and laws relating to war and armed conflict occurred on August 22, 2010 in the Tirgiran Valley, Baghlan province, Afghanistan.

For the purpose of this analysis we examine the statements and claims of the Chief of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), Lieutenant General Tim Keating, made before journalists during his press conference on Monday March 27, 2017. We also understand, that the claims put by the Lt. General form the basis of a briefing by NZDF’s top ranking officer to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Bill English.

It appears the official account , if true, underscores a probable breach of legal obligations – not necessarily placing culpability solely on the New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS) commandos on the ground, but rather on the officers who commanded their actions, ordered their movements, their tasks and priorities prior to, during, and after Operation Burnham.

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According to New Zealand Defence Force’s official statements Operation Burnham ‘aimed to detain Taliban insurgent leaders who were threatening the security and stability of Bamyan Province and to disrupt their operational network’. (ref. NZDF rebuttal)

We are to understand Operation Burnham’s objective was to identify, capture, or kill (should this be justified under NZDF rules of engagement), those insurgents who were named on a Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL) that NZDF intelligence suggested were responsible for the death of NZDF soldier Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell.

Lieutenant General Tim Keating, Chief of New Zealand Defence Force.

When delivering NZDF’s official account of Operation Burnham before media, Lieutenant General Tim Keating said:

For the purpose of a counter-strike, intelligence was sought and Lt. General Keating said: “We knew in a matter of days from local and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) intelligence who had attacked our patrol [where and when Lt. O’Donnell was killed].”

The intelligence specified the villages where the alleged insurgents were suspected of coming from and Lt. General Keating said: “This group had previously attacked Afghan Security Forces and elements of the German and Hungarian PRTs.”

The New Zealand Government authorised permission for the Kabul-based NZSAS troops to be used in Operation Burnham.

“What followed was 14 days of reliable and corroborated intelligence collection that provided confirmation and justification for subsequent actions. Based on the intelligence, deliberate and detailed planning was conducted,” Lt. General Keating said.

Revenge, Keating said, was never a motivation. Rather, according to him, the concern was for the security of New Zealand’s reconstruction and security efforts in Bamyan province.

As stated above, Operation Burnham’s primary objective was to identify, capture or kill Taliban insurgent leaders named in the intelligence data.

We know, from the New Zealand Defence Force’s own account, Operation Burnham failed to achieve that goal.

Analysis of the NZDF Official Account

The official account of events that occurred in the early hours of August 22, 2010, describe how Taliban insurgents, realising coalition forces were preparing to raid the area (marked as ‘Operation Burnham Area of Operation’ in a map (slide 3) declasified and released to media on March 27, 2017), formed a tactical maneuver using civilians (women, children and elderly) as a human shield.

Despite the official account placing this group within a building, within a small hamlet, within the area of operation, within Tirgiran Valley, there is no clear definitive official account yet given of what happened to either the civilians or the insurgents.

This appears to be an obvious void in the official record, but one that has failed so far to be scrutinised.

To follow the logic of Lt. General Tim Keating’s account (detailed below), is to discover our defence personnel, who were in charge of the ground and air operation during Operation Burnham, failed to identify what had become of those civilians (women, children, and the elderly), and also importantly the suspected insurgents who Lt. General Keating said during his briefing used the villagers as a human shield.

We know from the Chief of Defence Force’s notes as provided on March 27, 2017, that as Operation Burnham began, NZDF was in command of United States manned aircraft (including helicopters and possibly a AC-130). The aircraft were swarming above the Tirgiran Valley.

From the NZDF account an NZDF joint terminal air controller was in charge of the air attack against those NZDF had defined as insurgents.

Lt. General Keating stated the alleged insurgents were armed and a NZDF commander authorised the US manned aircraft to commence firing. Weapons-fire then began to rain down on the valley from above.

Meanwhile NZSAS ground force soldiers prepared to secure their positions and to defend themselves against any potential enemy counter-attack.

Lt. General Keating stated the insurgents responded: “The insurgents, the guerrilla force, the tactic is mixed in with the civilian population, if you like, the term used is a human shield. So they use civilians as a shield.”

He added: “What occurred, is a helicopter was engaging a group of insurgents outside the village, on the outskirts of the village. During that engagement, it was noted by the ground forces there – the SAS ground forces – that some of the rounds [from the US manned aircraft] were falling short, and went into a building where it was believed there were civilians as well as armed insurgents.”

To be clear, from this account, Lt. General Keating stated a group of insurgents were being tracked, targeted, and fired upon by the US manned aircraft and under the command of a New Zealand Defence Force terminal air controller.

Meanwhile, according to the NZDF record, one of the airborne helicopter’s weapon’s sights were not calibrated correctly, and, according to Lt. General Keating, 30mm projectiles went into a building where it was believed there were civilians as well as armed insurgents – remember these 30mm projectiles are capable of penetrating the side of a tank.

For accuracy, Lt. General Keating restated his account: “It is noted, the building, there were armed insurgents in there, but it is believed that there may have been civilians in the building.”

He then added: “There’s no confirmation that any casualties occurred, but there may have been.”

He restated again: “There were civilians in that building.”

Now, this is where the Chief of Defence Force’s account fails to further explain what occurred after that point.

To summarise, the official position of the New Zealand Defence Force is:

  • There were civilians in a building within the village that was fired upon by an armor piercing aircraft weapon
  • That it was believed insurgents were also in that building
  • That civilian casualties or deaths “may have been” or occurred inside the building.

At this juncture, we must consider whether the New Zealand Defence Force ground commanders had a responsibility to determine whether there were Taliban insurgents in the building? And if so, whether they were the individuals listed on the JPEL list, those deemed responsible for the death of Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell? And what of the ground commanders’ legal requirements, the duty of care with respect to civilians, were NZDF commanders on the ground or back in Kabul compelled by law to confirm the status of the civilians, whether they were injured or killed?

Lieutenant General Tim Keating presenting the official account of Operation Burnham at a press conference, March 27, 2017.

When asked by a journalist at the March 27, 2017 press conference: ‘If there may have been civilian casualties, why not have an inquiry to find out?’

Lt. General Keating replied: “Even if there was, as far as the New Zealand Defence Force has heard, the coalition investigation has, um, said that uh, if there were casualties, the fault of those casualties was a mechanical failure of a piece of equipment.”

This reply does not appear to consider the legal requirements under:

  • Second Protocol to the Geneva Convention Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, Article 7: the obligation to provide medical assistance to all wounded, whether or not they have taken part in the armed conflict
  • Second Protocol to the Geneva Convention Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, Article 8: the obligation to search for and collect the wounded and to ensure their adequate care
  • Second Protocol to the Geneva Convention Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, Article 13: the obligation to protect the civilian population against dangers arising from military operations
  • Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971, section 102. This section provides that the commanding officer of a person alleged to have committed an offence under that Act must initiate proceedings in the form of a charge or refer the allegation to civil authorities, unless the commanding officer considers the allegation is not well-founded. While little legal guidance is provided, it cannot be accepted that preliminary inquiries to determine whether an allegation is well-founded can be considered adequate where they fail to obtain evidence from the injured parties, determine their identities or even verify that they exist
  • Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Article 28
  • The NZDF Manual of Armed Forces Law provides that there are three types of inquiry in the NZDF: a preliminary inquiry, a court of inquiry and a command investigation. (It appears however the ISAF investigation cited by the Chief of Defence Force was not any of the above forms of inquiry).

Specifically, if you analyse Lt. General Keating’s account, the New Zealand Defence Force commanders failed to identify whether any insurgents were inside the building and whether there were dead or wounded civilians.

Why was this the case? It seems reasonable to suggest, this is an abandonment of logic. It does not make sense.

We know from official NZDF documents the soldiers arrived at the scene of Operation Burnham at 0030 hours on August 22, 2010 and left at 0345 hours, that’s the official record.

To clarify, the NZSAS commandos were in the area of operation for 3 hours 15 minutes. Lt. General Keating stated, near the conclusion of the raid: “The ground force commander chose at that time that there was no longer a threat and they were leaving.”

How could that rationally be the case unless the suspected insurgents inside that building had been checked? Was it not suspected that there were insurgents in that building?

Surely the ground force commanders would be compelled to seek and identify the inhabitants of that building to see if they matched the names/descriptions on the JPEL list? After all, the manhunt for Taliban leadership was the purpose of the raid that night.

Also, logic would suggest, the people inside the building were in part civilians including women and probably children – by Lt. Keating’s account the group likely included wounded civilians and probably a dead child.

Also, it is reasonable to suggest, considering the events over those 3 hours 15 minutes, the survivors would have been crying, weeping, even howling, and the wounded would likely have been in agony.

It defies belief that the ground force commanders, and their counterparts back in Kabul, were not aware of this building, that the NZDF account states was housing suspected Taliban, and included a group of civilian victims that had been used as a human shield.

The entire area of operation specific to Operation Burnham is a skewed rectangle approximately 500 metres wide by 1 kilometre long, with an intensified operation plan focusing on two small hamlets, each approximately 50×200 metres in area [based on the scale measures of the NZDF map] – named Objective 1 and Objective 2 in the NZDF released material.

NZDF operational map, declassified at the NZDF press conference March 27, 2017.

To state it simply, the official silence surrounding the above-mentioned building, and the fate of the people inside, speaks volumes. It leaves one to consider at worst whether a crime was committed by New Zealand Defence Force commanders that night – whether by failing in their duty to care for the injured they were in breach of Articles 8, 9 and 13 of the Second Protocol to the Geneva Conventions.

  • The Statute of the International Criminal Court defines war crimes as, inter alia, “serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict” and “serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in an armed conflict not of an international character”. (Ref. IHL Definition of war crimes, page 1 (pdf) – ICC Statute, Article 8 (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 44, § 3))
  • ‘The Statute defines as within the scope of the law, the “launching an attack without attempting to aim properly at a military target or in such a manner as to hit civilians without any thought or care as to the likely extent of death or injury amounts to an indiscriminate attack”.
  • War crimes can consist of acts or omissions. Examples of the latter include failure to provide a fair trial and failure to provide food or necessary medical care to persons in the power of the adversary.’

At best, if NZDF’s official account is to be relied upon, we are to believe the NZSAS ground commanders failed to ensure the Taliban insurgents they sought were not holed up in a building that had sustained damage from coalition force aircraft. If this assumption is incorrect, at what point had the suspected insurgents left the building? And what had become of the civilians that had been allegedly used as a human shield? Again, the vacuum of information specific to this aspect of the official account needs to be explained, including an explanation as to why NZDF’s account remains vague after six years since Operation Burnham was conducted.

It appears reasonable to assert that this single issue, notwithstanding the irregularities of official NZDF stated ‘facts’, warrants further official and independent investigation.

As it is, at this juncture, we are left to consider a series of unanswered questions that to date the New Zealand Chief of Defence Force has failed to satisfy. Here are some of them.

Key Unanswered Questions:

  • What were the specific definitions of an insurgent that were used by NZDF for the purposes of evaluation during Operation Burnham and for the purpose of post-operation official analysis? For example; was it deemed that anyone who was male and of a fighting age was defined to be an insurgent?
  • Were NZDF soldiers fired upon by individuals (villagers or insurgents) located within the confines of the villages or surrounding area during Operation Burnham?
  • Was the individual who was killed by a NZSAS soldier or NZDF personnel carrying a weapon at the time of this shooting? If so, had he fired or attempted to fire his weapon in an attempt to kill or wound NZDF personnel?
  • How long in minutes were the coalition forces’ helicopters, and any other airborne craft, firing their weapons on the villages and surrounding region during Operation Burnham?
  • How long in minutes were NZSAS soldiers involved in securing the operational area from real or potential insurgent attack?
  • Did NZDF personnel at anytime seek to identify individuals (and their status, injured, killed, or otherwise) who were located inside or near the building that Lt. General Keating said had suffered damage from an alleged mis-aimed firing from an airborne coalition aircraft?
  • Were those who were injured or killed within sight of NZDF personnel before, during, and/or after the alleged mis-aimed firing?
  • How many individuals did the NZDF personnel suspect were inside the building?
  • How many of these people did the NZDF personnel suspect were civilians?
  • How many were suspected of being women?
  • How many were suspected of being children?
  • Lt. General Keating suggested that one of the individuals that may have been killed during Operation Burnham was a six year-old child. What was the gender of this child?
  • Was their any attempt to identify this six year-old victim?
  • Was this child Fatima, the three year-old child identified in the Hit & Run [ISBN 978 0 947503 39 0] book? If not, then who was this child?
  • What actions did NZDF personnel do to exercise their duty of care obligations to the injured and to civilians?
  • What reports, cautions, evaluations were written and/or submitted regarding Operation Burnham to NZDF by the NZDF legal officer who was on the ground during Operation Burnham?

The Twisting Turning Official Account – Is This Smoke and Mirrors?

As a consequence of the Hit & Run book [ISBN 978 0 947503 39 0] being published, New Zealand Defence Force’s top ranking soldier, Lt. General Tim Keating admitted civilians “may have been” killed during the operation.

Up until March 27, 2017, for the past six years, New Zealand Defence Force has insisted that no civilians were killed during Operation Burnham on August 22, 2010.

But on Monday, under questioning from the media, at the March 27 press conference, Lt. General Keating stated that the NZDF’s new “official line” regarding civilian deaths was “there may have been”.

He then attempted to suggest that NZDF’s previously stated position – that claims of civilian deaths were “unfounded” – was basically the same thing.

“I’m not going to get cute here and say it’s a twist on words, it’s the same thing, ‘unfounded’, ‘there may have been’. The official line is that there may have been casualties,” Lt. General Keating said.

A journalist then challenged him further suggesting: “They’re different things, one means they didn’t happen and one mean might’ve done.”

Lt. General Keating then replied: “You’re right…the, the, the official line is that civilian casualties may have occurred, but not corroborated.”

When asked how many insurgents were killed, Lt. General Keating replied: “A significant number of insurgents, identified insurgents, were killed during Operation Burnham.”

When asked again how many were killed, Lt. General Keating stated: “Nine.”

When asked if NZDF had the names of the insurgents that were killed, he replied: “No, we do not have names of insurgents.”

This trajectory, inching toward a truth, occurred under tight questioning by a journalist, over just a few minutes.

What further truths will become relevant to understanding what occurred that night in Khak Khuday Dad and Naik villages should a commission of inquiry be established?

The Inconsistencies – A Summary

In evaluation, it is reasonable to assert the official Government inconsistencies observed along a six-year timeline offer the appearance of a military hierarchy that has being dragged, by degrees, (mainly by the work of Jon Stephenson, an investigative journalist specialising in war and conflict reportage) into an arena where the floodlight of public interest ought to shed light on secrets long since filed into a dark place.

However, considering the above, rather than responding openly to the challenge of meeting its responsibilities to the New Zealand Minister of Defence and public, the New Zealand Defence Force appears resistant to its obligations toward open and accurate disclosure of non-classified fact.

In conclusion, if this is true, this conduct exhibited by the officials of New Zealand Defence Force and its Chief Lt. General Tim Keating is hardly a defining benchmark of ‘exemplary’ standards.

Actually, the admissions of relevant information, that is forthcoming only when lanced from the New Zealand Defence Force under questioning, offers the impression of a smoke and mirrors operation – it may appear churlish to suggest, but perhaps the post-Operation Burnham aftermath ought to be referred to as Operation Desert Road (bleak, cold, inhospitable, proceed with caution).

The public deserves to know the whole truth, not spin or part-truths – both the public interest and the national interest depends on it.

By the New Zealand Defence Force’s own account, it appears reasonable to suggest that the commanders overseeing Operation Burnham had legal obligations to civilians; that they were potentially negligent when considered against their stated rules of engagement, rules of conduct, obligations to international human rights law and international humanitarian law – negligent of their obligations to laws covering war and armed conflict, notwithstanding their obligations as representatives of the people and Government of New Zealand to observe the Bill of Rights Act.

It is also reasonable to suggest; there are significant established facts as mentioned above, as put by the New Zealand Defence Force, that require an official investigative response from the New Zealand Government.

It is also reasonable to insist that the matter of an absence of consistent fact emitting from the New Zealand Defence Force upon which a reliable opinion can be draw, adds weight to the burden on the Government to establish an inquiry into this matter.

If the New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English elects not to act then it will likely become a matter of political leadership or lack thereof.

If Bill English does not care to act on his office’s public interest obligations, then, it is reasonable to suggest he consider the empirical facts underlying this matter and the impact the matter has on New Zealand’s national interest. Should he fail to do so, this matter potentially could be argued before the International Criminal Court.

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BACKGROUND RELEVANCIES:

Were NZDF Officials and Hit & Run Authors Describing The Same Raid? Let’s compare

“It seems to me,” Lt. General Tim Keating stressed, “that one of the fundamentals, a start point if you like, of any investigation into a crime is to tie the alleged perpetrators of a crime to the scene. Then we would examine the motive and means, and other scene evidence.” – Lieutenant General Tim Keating, March 27, 2017.

On Monday, March 27, 2017 both the Prime Minister Bill English and the Chief of New Zealand Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating countered details revealed in the book Hit & Run and argued facts stated in the work could not be relied upon because the authors ‘incorrectly’ alleged Operation Burnham took place in Khak Khuday Dad Village and Naik Village deep in the mountainous Baghlan province of Afghanistan – two locations the Defence Force chief insisted his soldiers had never been to.

Lt. General Keating asserted that the New Zealand Defence Force had never been to the two villages (Khak Khuday Dad and Naik) and insisted Operation Burnham took place 2.2 kilometres to the south of where the authors Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson had marked the location of the villages (specifically on a map published in the book Hit & Run).

Lt. General Keating said: “As you will note from the book, the authors have been precise in locating these villages with geo reference points — so I have no doubt they are very accurate in the villages they are taking their allegations from.

“The villages lie in the Tirgiran Valley some 2 kilometres north from Tirgiran Village. In straight distance this is like comparing the distance from Te Papa to Wellington Hospital. However, if you overlay the elevated terrain, you will see we are talking about two very separated, distinct settlements,” Lt. General Keating said.

Beyond the obvious, it was a staggering claim, especially for those aware the New Zealand Defence Force had insisted one week prior, that its official position remained the same as stated in a media release dated April 20, 2011 that: “On 22 August 2010 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) elements, operating as part of a Coalition Force in Bamyan province, Afghanistan conducted an operation against an insurgent group.”

NZDF’s earlier position asserted New Zealand soldiers had not been in Baghlan province on or near August 22, 2010 the night of Operation Burnham. Now, the chief of New Zealand’s armed forces was admitting that they had.

At the press conference on Monday March 27, 2017 the Chief of New Zealand Defence Force prepared to stake his claim that the book could not be relied on as a factual reference.

Before around 30 journalists, Lt. General Tim Keating pointed to four relevant bullet-points underlying key claims of fact in the book:

  • Helicopter landing sites
  • Location of houses that were destroyed
  • Locations of where civilians were allegedly killed
  • Presumed location of an SAS Sniper with evidence presented of SAS ammunition and water bottles which were found at the site.

A relationship was drawn between the Sniper location and the alleged killing of the individual Islamuddin, the School teacher.

He acknowledged that the book contained a detailed list of those alleged to have been killed or wounded during a military operation in Khak Khuday Dad and Naik villages and a detailed list of the houses destroyed at the two locations.

Lt. General Keating then drove his point home that: “The underlying premise of the book is that New Zealand’s SAS soldiers conducted an operation on Khak Khuday Dad Village and Naik Village…”

“It seems to me,” he stressed, “that one of the fundamentals, a start point if you like, of any investigation into a crime is to tie the alleged perpetrators of a crime to the scene. Then we would examine the motive and means, and other scene evidence.”

Lt. General Keating pivoted. “Let me now talk about the ISAF Operation Burnham in Tirgiran Village.”

The premise of the Chief of Defence Force’s position was; the book Hit & Run described events that may or may not have occurred in Khak Khuday Dad and Naik villages, but that these alleged events had nothing to do with New Zealand Defence Force soldiers as they had never been to the two locations as marked in the book.

Likewise, the Prime Minister, Bill English, said the book got it wrong, that the New Zealand Defence Force had never been to either Khak Khuday Dad Village and Naik Village.

The Prime Minister added: “We believe in the integrity of the Defence Force more than a book that picks the wrong villages.”

For some, it appeared the raid that night as described by the authors could have been committed by another force. For others, it seemed the authors had got a major fact wrong so therefore the remaining claims in the book were moot.

By mid-Wednesday morning, the Government and the public found out there was more to it, that the Chief of New Zealand Defence Force was also wrong with regard to his geography.

Unpicking the official line began in earnest late on Tuesday night (March 28, 2017) when the lawyers representing the alleged victims of Operation Burnham contacted their clients back in Afghanistan. The purpose of the contact was to identify the exact location of Khak Khuday Dad Village and Naik Village; to confirm or otherwise disprove the existence of ‘Tirgiran Village’ (the NZDF stated official location of Operation Burnham), and to identify and confirm what village or villages are located at the exact co-ordinates as provided by Lt. General Tim Keating in his briefing to New Zealand media.

The lawyers’ clients, represented by a doctor from the region, stated categorically that ‘Tirgiran Village’ (as stated by Lt. General Keating) does not exist. That the region is known as Tirgiran Valley.

The lawyers evaluated from the new information, that to refer to the location of Operation Burnham as Tirgiran Village is like insisting an operation had occurred in Otago City (obviously Otago is a region and a city of that name does not exist, and as such would fail to offer an exact point of reference on a map).

Importantly, the lawyers confirmed, New Zealand Defence Force’ co-ordinates of where Operation Burnham took place were correct – but that the location was not as the NZDF had stated as ‘Tirgiran Village’ (an incorrect reference to a village that does not exist) but rather marks the geo-locations of where Khak Khuday Dad Village and Naik Village are located.

Specifically, the villagers confirmed the red-rectangle as marked on the NZDF map provided by the Lt. General on Monday March 27, and referred to as the area specific to Operation Burnham, frames the exact positions of where Khak Khuday Dad and Naik villages are located.

So simply, the book contained a map that placed Khak Khuday Dad and Naik 2.2 kilometres north of there specific real locations. And, the NZDF got it wrong by stating that those two villages were located where the book suggested, and that the village at the centre of Operation Burnham was a different village called Tirgiran Village (again, a place-name that does not exist).

So it turns out, according to those that live in the Tirgiran Valley, the Chief of Defence Force’s statement is incorrect or false; that when NZDF stated as a categorical fact that the New Zealand SAS commandos had never been to Khak Khuday Dad Village nor Naik Village, that that information was false.

At this point politically, it’s inescapable that the Prime Minister’s stated position ought to have taken a hit.

Remember back to the Prime Minister’s statement to media on Monday March 27, 2017 where he pitched his rationale: “We believe in the integrity of the Defence Force more than a book that picks the wrong villages.”

Surely, the same measure that was applied to the authors of Hit & Run now ought to be applied in equal measure to the New Zealand Defence Force chief and his officials. After all, they also got their geography wrong.

Since then, there has been stated unease about the whole issue by Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne (the minister who would have to sign off and authorise the costs of an inquiry should the Prime Minister order an inquiry be established). By Thursday March 30, 2017 Dunne, through media, called for an inquiry into the whole affair. (ref. Stuff.co.nz )

Also on Thursday, the Minister of Defence at the time of the raid, Dr Wayne Mapp, wrote of his unease about Operation Burnham in a piece published on the Pundit website. (ref. Pundit )

Dr Mapp argued that the Government’s position, and that of the New Zealand Defence Force, cannot be the end of it.

“Part of protecting their [the SAS’] reputation is also finding out what happened, particularly if there is an allegation that civilian casualties may have been accidentally caused. In that way we both honour the soldiers, and also demonstrate to the Afghans that we hold ourselves to the highest ideals of respect of life, even in circumstances of military conflict,” wrote Dr Mapp.

Common Statements Of Fact
The descriptions of Operation Burnham, in both the book, and, as stated by the New Zealand Defence Force, do mirror each account with precision on numerous vital points, including:

  • The time of night Operation Burnham took place
  • That New Zealand Defence Force was commanding and leading the operation (both on the ground and in the air)
  • That the helicopters were manned by United States military personnel under New Zealand’s command
  • That the purpose of the operation was to kill or capture those named as having been part of a Taliban insurgent raid that killed Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell
  • That buildings were destroyed during the operation
  • That people were killed at the villages.

However, anyone who has reasonably assessed the issue can see there is much more information to be revealed.

Conclusion:
In concluding this analysis, it is an imperative that due to the highest levels of public and national interest concerning the alleged conduct, the seriousness of allegations, and the variables relating to the official account, that the matter be subjected to an independent commission of inquiry.