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Bonn court reviews 2009 Kunduz air strike

A court in Bonn has resumed its hearing of civil lawsuits against Germany and its armed forces over NATO's bombing of two fuel tankers at Kunduz in northern Afghanistan four years ago. At least 91 Afghans were killed.

On Wednesday, German judges began hearing compensation claims from relatives of Afghans killed during a NATO air strike at Kunduz in 2009. Anti-war demonstrators protested outside the Bonn regional courthouse.

Representatives of the German Defense Ministry assert that families of those killed were already compensated to the sum of 347,000 euros ($478,000) through payouts of money and material goods.

The resumption follows legal maneuvers in March and April, when Germany and lawyers for claimants failed to reach an out-of-court settlement and judges told the government to provide recordings of conversations between flight command and the pilots who flew the strike .

The claimants are a Afghan father who lost two children and a mother of six children who lost her husband during the incident. The compensation sought is 40,000 euros and 50,000 euros respectively.

German furor

The incident in question occurred when two tanker vehicles hijacked by Taliban insurgents became stuck in a riverbed on September 4, 2009. A group of people then tried to extract fuel.

Acting on an intelligence report saying that all the people gathered around the trucks were insurgents,the Bundeswehr commander in Kunduz, Georg Klein, ordered an air strike by NATO fighter jets.

At least 91 Afghan civilians were killed in the attack, and several others were wounded.

The Kunduz incident caused a political furor in Germany in 2009 and led to the resignation of several senior officials.

Judges examine recordings

Judges of Bonn's regional state court were to examine whether Klein, who has been promoted from major to general since the incident, overrode regulations by ordering the air strike despite a suggestion from US pilots that they first fly low over the site to scare away the crowd.

The court first viewed video footage from the fighter jets. They were also due to examine transcripts of the radio conversations between flight command and the pilots.

Lawyers for the claimants accuse Klein of negligence and breaching humanitarian law.

German pullout

Ten days ago, convoys completed a pullout from the Bundeswehr's former base in Kunduz after visiting German Cabinet ministers had handed it over to local Afghan security forces.

German forces in northern Afghanistan are now centered at Mazar-i-Sharif, 300 kilometers (180 miles) from Kunduz. NATO plans to end its combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014.

Of the 54 German troops killed in Afghanistan since 2003, 35 died in combat operations. Germany's maximum force number was 5350 troops.

In a separate development, Germany has announced that it will offer refuge to 182 Afghan translators and drivers who worked for the military and could now face persecution at home because of this.

ipj/tj (dpa, AP, epd)