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Germany

Wikileaks endangers lives, says German army commander

The German commander of international forces in northern Afghanistan has warned that the release of classified documents by the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks poses a lethal threat to soldiers.

Magnifying glass focusing on leaked Afghan documents

Wikileaks may have gone too far in releasing sensitive files

Major General Hans-Werner Fritz, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in northern Afghanistan, said the publication last month of tens of thousands of secret military files by the Wikileaks website threatened the lives of soldiers and Afghans cooperating with them.

Fritz said, for example, that the classified documents contained the names of ordinary Afghans working with ISAF.

"I believe this action is absolutely irresponsible," he said. "It endangers the life and limb not only of our German soldiers, but of all soldiers who are deployed in Afghanistan."

General Fritz made his remarks alongside German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and the speaker of the German parliament, Norbert Lammert, who gave a press conference after their arrival in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, to visit German troops.

The Afghan mission is currently Germany's largest deployment of armed forces abroad with up to 5,350 personnel authorized to serve in the country.

General Fritz, third from right, with Defense Minister Guttenberg, far right, and Parliamentary President Lammert between them

"Actions absolutely irresponsible," says German general about leaked documents

A battle between David and Goliath

Washington has harshly criticized Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, but has not yet said whether or not it will take legal, or other, action against the tiny handful of people who work for the website.

The Pentagon suspects an US army private based in Iraq was the source of the military documents.

Wikileaks, which is not connected to the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia, has refused to return any of the material and said it has 15,000 more documents, which it planned to publish later this year.

The website is based in Sweden, whose media laws are among the most protective for journalists.

The choice of Sweden gives Wikileaks a better shot at fulfilling its mission to make the world more transparent because it will be hard for the US government to challenge the country's free-speech laws.

Per Eric Alvsing, a Stockholm lawyer, said that an informant's identity is protected by the Swedish constitution, but that anything considered libelous or related to national security could allow for exceptions.

Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Toma Tasovac

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