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By Charlotte Greenfield
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand's Attorney General David Parker on Wednesday announced his government was launching an inquiry into a 2010 operation in Afghanistan involving New Zealand special forces to determine whether any civilians were killed.
The year-long review would also look into how the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) handled reports of civilian casualties from the raid in northern Afghanistan, according to an emailed government statement.
The raids became a hot public issue in New Zealand in 2017 after two journalists published a book about the operation, alleging six civilians were killed and more than a dozen injured.
The NZDF had said in response to the book that civilian casualties stemming from the raid were a possibility, but denied any misconduct.
The operation under scrutiny was carried out by New Zealand special forces, alongside U.S and Afghan armed forces, in Baghlan province when around 150,000 foreign troops were stationed in the country supporting Afghan security forces against the growing Taliban-led insurgency.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force investigated the incident soon after it happened and concluded that civilian casualties were possible due to the malfunction of a weapons system, according to an NZDF media briefing in 2017.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Labour-led government, which took the helm in October, had promised it would consider an inquiry into the allegations during its election campaign.
The attorney-general said in the statement that he had viewed video footage provided by the NZDF when deciding whether to conduct the review and that it did not seem to match with "some key aspects" of the books' claims, but was not conclusive.
"In light of that, and bearing in mind the need for the public to have confidence in the NZDF, I have decided in the public interest that an inquiry is warranted," he said.
Defence Force Chief Lieutenant General Tim Keating said the NZDF would co-operate fully with the inquiry.
"At all times throughout this operation the NZSAS acted professionally and conducted themselves to the high standards expected of our special forces," he said in a statement.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Michael Perry)