German officials quit over Kunduz airstrike
By MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 27, 2009
The head of the German armed forces and a high-ranking civilian in the defense ministry resigned Thursday after it was revealed that information was suppressed regarding the German air force bombing in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in which as many as 142 civilians were killed.
The German newspaper Bild Zeitung reported Thursday that in order to conceal civilian casualties, the results of an internal investigation conducted by the German army were withheld from the public and investigators by Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Germany’s highest ranking soldier, and State Secretary Peter Wichert.
According to the paper, a German colonel ordered the Sept. 4 airstrike on two tanker trucks stolen by Taliban fighters, which had become stuck in the mud.
At the time, Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung maintained that there were no civilian casualties, that only Taliban fighters were killed. After the resignation of Schneiderhan, there is also pressure on Jung, who became Germany’s minister of labor after the September elections.
The airstrike occurred as U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the overall commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and other senior officials were trying to minimize civilian casualties by limiting the use of air power. McChrystal toured the site personally the day after the bombing.