A New Zealand Defence Force ( NZDF) probe into two incidents in which five soldiers were killed in Afghanistan has cleared New Zealand personnel of causing casualties among Afghan security forces and civilians, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said Thursday.
The court of inquiry found that the five New Zealand soldiers were killed by insurgents in the incidents, which both occurred in Bamyan Province in August last year.
"Losing five of our soldiers in Afghanistan in August last year was a very tragic and difficult time for the Defence Force and for New Zealand," Coleman said in a statement.
Two soldiers were killed and six were injured in a firefight in Baghak on Aug. 4, which Coleman described as "one of the most complex firefights involving Defence Force personnel since the Vietnam War."
"Our soldiers performed well under fire, and displayed great courage and professionalism. It was a very intense situation and our eight casualties occurred within a chaotic 12-minute period," he said.
"Two of our soldiers were injured as a result of friendly fire. The reality is that while unfortunate, this is always a risk during complex combat situations."
Four Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) personnel died in the battle, and nine NDS staff, an Afghan National Policeman, and an Afghan national were wounded as a result of insurgent fire, he said.
"Afghan lives were saved that day due to the actions of New Zealand troops. The inquiry found no evidence that our people killed or wounded any Afghan National Security Forces personnel," said Coleman.
Another three New Zealand soldiers died when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device on Aug. 19.
New Zealand troops left Bamyan, where they maintained a camp and ran the provincial reconstruction team (PRT) for 10 years, in April.
New Zealand maintains a presence in Afghanistan with 27 NZDF personnel based in Kabul and several agricultural and renewable energy projects being operated in Bamyan.
More than 3,500 NZDF personnel have served in Afghanistan since 2001, most of them in the PRT, and 10 have been killed, eight of them in Bamyan.