Foreign ministry knew of civilian deaths in Afghan airstrike, reports say | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 21.12.2009
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Germany

Foreign ministry knew of civilian deaths in Afghan airstrike, reports say

New reports claim an official with the German Foreign Ministry knew of civilian casualties in a controversial September airstrike very shortly after the attack took place.

Social Democrat leader and former foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier has claimed early reports of civilian casualties were unclear

Controversy surrounding the German military's deadly September airstrike in Afghanistan saw new developments after German media began reporting a foreign ministry official knew of civilian casualities shortly after the attack.

A report by the Hamburg-based magazine Stern claims the unnamed official participated in meetings on September 4 and 5 in the northern city of Kunduz as civilian head of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). In the meetings, army soldiers, military police and Afghan government officials alledgedly referred to civilian casualties.

The claim was also reported Sunday evening by the television program Report from Berlin, citing confidential minutes of a PRT Kunduz meeting.

Who knew what, and when?

Defense Minister Guttenberg gives a speech to the German Bundestag

Guttenberg has refused calls by opposition leaders to resign over the airstrike

The recent allegations could have implications for former Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, now opposition leader in the German parliament. In the days following the attack, Steinmeier spoke of "potentially innocent victims" but said reports of civilian deaths were conflicting.

The airstrike, which took place on September 4 in Kunduz, killed or wounded as many as 142 people, including civilians. It has become highly controversial in Germany, where the war in Afghanistan is deeply unpopular.

Both Wolfgang Schneiderhan, chief of staff of the German armed forces, and Peter Wichert, deputy minister of defense, resigned because of the airstrike. Former Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung also resigned his cabinet position as Minister of Labor and Social Affairs amid the controversy.

Opposition leaders have also called on current Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg to resign for failing to inform the public of details on the attack contained in a NATO report, but Guttenberg has refused.

acb/dpa/AP
Editor: Ranty Islam

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