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Defense Minister Jung and General Wolfgang Schneiderhan pledged a full investigationImage: AP

Soldiers Questioned

DW staff (win)
October 26, 2006

German politicians and military officials have called for better cultural training for soldiers after photos of an alleged desecration of a skull in Afghanistan shocked the nation.


Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said that six suspects, who allegedly participated in posing with a skull in degrading and obscene ways, had already been identified and questioned. Four had left the Bundeswehr since the spring 2003 incident while two were still in the army.

"Anyone who behaves this way has no place in the Bundeswehr," Jung said in parliament on Thursday, adding that those involved would receive their just punishment.

German tabloid Bild on Wednesday had published pictures of what appeared to be German soldiers posing with a skull in Afghanistan. In one picture, a soldier held the skull next to his exposed private parts.

Better training needed?

Were soldiers at Bavaria's Edelweiss barracks not well prepared for their mission abroad?Image: PA/dpa

The revelations led to a call for better cultural training for soldiers. Winfried Nachtwei, the defense policy spokesman for Germany's opposition Greens party, said that military training should be checked and soldiers should be made aware that such behavior can have serious consequences abroad.

Walter Mixa, the Catholic military bishop, agreed that cultural training had to be improved. He added that someone who believed in God would not have committed the alleged desecration and described the incident as an "absolute exception."

More cases to come?

Others countered that the soldiers' behavior was not exceptional.

"We have to finally stop talking about exceptions," Helmuth Priess, who heads a group called Critical Soldiers, told Berliner Zeitung. "This will certainly not be the last case of its kind."

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