Merkel backtracks in comments over bin Laden death

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was "relieved" over the killing of Osama bin Laden, a report said Saturday, after she drew fire for previously saying she was pleased at his death.

"Bin Laden was the leader of an international terrorist network who sponsored monstrous crimes. We can and should be relieved he will no longer harm anyone," Merkel told Passauer Neue Presse daily in an interview.

Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 airplane attacks in Washington and New York, was gunned down on Monday by US special forces in a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, north of Islamabad.

Merkel said after US commandos shot dead the Al-Qaeda leader: "I am pleased that it was possible to kill bin Laden."

Several figures distanced themselves from the comments, including some from within her own conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Hamburg judge Heinz Uthmann even filed a criminal complaint against Merkel for "endorsing a crime" and described her comments as "disgraceful".

In the same report Saturday, Merkel also defended the presence of German soldiers in Afghanistan amid a renewed debate on Germany's military role in the country.

"The death of bin Laden does not change the fact that Afghanistan is still unstable. Our soldiers are there to prevent the country from becoming a terrorist base again resulting in risks to our safety," she said.

According to a recent poll, 59 percent of Germans support a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Germany in January extended its military mission in Afghanistan by one year in cooperation with international forces. Parliament authorised the deployment of up to 5,350 troops.

© 2011 AFP

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