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NZ Defence Force say firing range was cleared before Afghan children died


The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) says a firing range was cleared the year before seven children died from a device allegedly left behind on a NZDF firing range in Afghanistan.

Source: 1 NEWS

A Stuff Circuit investigation has revealed 17 civilians were either killed or injured in 2014 in connection with an unexploded ordnance left on New Zealand's Bamyan firing ranges.

This includes seven children, aged between 5 and 12, who died in an explosion near the Beersheba Range.

But in a statement provided to Stuff prior to the publication of the story, NZDF said the firing range was cleared in 2013.

Blast from NZ firing range ammunition kills Afghan children

"After the NZDF PRT deployments finished in 2013, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) introduced a new standard for range clearance which was then adopted by the Afghan Directorate of Mine Action Coordination (DMAC)," the statement said.

NZDF said the range "was cleared in October 2013 by a contractor of the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan, and was assessed as being free from landmines and explosive remnants of war."

Defence Minister, Ron Mark is overseas on ministerial business, but told 1 NEWS he was aware of the issue.

"While I am aware of claims which appear to link victims of unexploded ordnance with New Zealand’s live firing ranges, I understand those claims have not been confirmed," he said.

"I have been advised that before leaving Afghanistan the NZDF carried out firing range clearances to the agreed standards then approved by the Government of Afghanistan.

"After the NZDF PRT deployments finished in 2013, and forces were extracted, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) introduced a new standard for range clearance which was then adopted by the Afghan Directorate of Mine Action Coordination (DMAC).

"For context, Afghanistan and many other nations, are littered with explosive remnants of war from many decades of conflict. In one six month NZDF deployment to Afghanistan in 2007, for example, one team disposed of nearly 10 tonnes of ordnance – none of which was NZDF material," Mr Mark said.