German court rejects Afghan air strike victims' claim

11th December 2013, Comments 0 comments

A German court Wednesday rejected a lawsuit by relatives of victims of a deadly air raid in Afghanistan four years ago that was called in by NATO's German command.

In a landmark ruling, the judges found against a father seeking 40,000 euros ($55,000) after the death of two of his children and a widowed mother-of-six whose claim came to 50,000 euros.

In the September 2009 bombing, US planes hit two fuel tankers stolen by insurgents and killed and wounded scores of civilians near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.

After the tragedy, the German parliament described the strike as "one of the most serious incidents involving the German military since the Second World War".

On Wednesday the court in the western city of Bonn found however that there had been "no culpable official misconduct" on the part of German military officers.

The commander, Colonel Georg Klein, had called in the night-time strike after an informant had claimed in seven separate phone calls that no civilians were near the tankers, said presiding judge Heinz Sonnenberger.

The judge also recalled that in the months before the strike, the security situation had "deteriorated significantly" and that German soldiers had to "anticipate attacks".

The ruling, which can be appealed to a higher court, dampens the outlook for another 77 plaintiffs seeking more than three million euros over the bombing.

The German government had argued the air strike came under NATO command and could not be blamed on Berlin alone.

It has already paid out $5,000 each to families affected by the raid, but stressed that the money was not compensation but humanitarian aid.

Germany has been the third-largest contributor of troops to NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, behind the United States and Britain.

© 2013 AFP

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