German spooks played role in Shalit release: spy chief
The head of the German intelligence service (BND) indicated Friday that his agents played a part in the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, hailing the operation as a "huge success."
Speaking on ARD public television, Ernst Uhrlau said: "The BND was entrusted with the task of supporting (the mission) with particularly qualified, experienced colleagues, who know the Middle East well."
"If we achieved a result that will shortly see Shalit return to his family after five and a half years, then that is a huge success.
"And if Germany and the BND played a part in that, then that makes us proud," he added.
Uhrlau refused to offer further information on the operation, saying: "Please understand that we are talking about a humanitarian action that we have been involved in for a long time and we cannot talk about the details."
Shalit, held since his June 25, 2006 capture in a cross-border raid by militants from three Gaza groups -- Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Army of Islam -- was expected home on Tuesday.
Germany, along with Egypt, helped mediate several rounds of talks on a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas. But talks broke down multiple times over the issue of which Palestinians would be released, and to where.
The final deal is expected to see Shalit transferred to Egypt, as Israel releases a first group of at least 450 Palestinians. A second group of 550 Palestinians is to be freed within two months.
© 2011 AFP