Germany pays out to Afghan strike families: ministry

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Germany said Tuesday it has paid out 430,000 dollars to the families of 102 Afghans killed or injured in an air strike called in by a German commander on two hijacked fuel tankers last September.

"Every family affected received 5,000 dollars. This measure is however not about compensation in the legal sense but constitutes humanitarian assistance," the defence ministry in Berlin said in a statement.

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 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."

A report by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) put the number at 102 killed or injured, the ministry said, reportedly including 91 dead. It did not say how many non-insurgents were among the casualties.

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.

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. Thirty-nine soldiers have died.

© 2010 AFP

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