German military drops probe against Afghanistan commander

19th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

The German military said Thursday it would not pursue disciplinary action against a German commander who called in an air strike in Afghanistan last year that killed several civilians.

The German army concluded its investigation against Colonel George Klein over the deadly bombing last September "because his actions complied with the relevant criteria under international humanitarian law governing conflict".

The September 4, 2009 bombing by US planes near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on two fuel tankers stolen by insurgents prompted outrage in Germany, where polls suggest a majority of people are opposed to the Afghan mission.

The defence minister at the time resigned, while the armed forces chief of staff and another senior defence official quit after pressure from the minister's successor, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who called the strike "militarily inappropriate."

Federal prosecutors decided in April to drop a criminal probe against Klein.

A report by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission put the number at 91 killed and 11 injured in the strike. A German defence ministry spokesman told AFP it was not known how many of these were insurgents.

NATO said at first 142 people were killed, reportedly including dozens of civilians. The operation has also been the subject of a parliamentary enquiry in Germany.

The German defence ministry said last week it had paid out 430,000 dollars (335,000 euros) to the 86 families of 102 Afghans killed or injured in the air strike, saying the money was intended "not as compensation in the legal sense but... (as) humanitarian assistance".

Germany is the third-largest contributor of foreign troops in Afghanistan after the United States and Britain, with around 4,500 soldiers in the relatively peaceful north. Forty-three soldiers have died.

© 2010 AFP

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