Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009

German minister Franz Josef Jung resigns over raid

Franz Josef Jung
Mr Jung was Germany's defence minister at the time of the attack

Germany's Labour Minister Franz Josef Jung has resigned amid allegations of a cover-up relating to a deadly Nato air strike in Afghanistan.

Mr Jung was defence minister when a strike was ordered on 4 September by a German commander against two fuel tankers hijacked by Taliban militants.

But dozens of civilians were also killed in the attack, which happened in the northern province of Kunduz.

Mr Jung had repeatedly denied civilians were killed in the attack.

He moved to the labour ministry after Germany's general election in September.

"I told Chancellor Angela Merkel this morning that I was handing in my position as federal labour minister," Mr Jung told reporters in Berlin on Friday.

"I am therefore taking responsibility for the information policy of the defence ministry."

Germany's parliament has been debating whether to extend the military mission in Afghanistan, amid growing domestic opposition to involvement in the conflict.

Information withheld?

The death toll from the September strike remains unclear. The independent Afghanistan Rights Monitor group put the number of civilians deaths at 70, while the Afghan government later said that 30 of 100 casualties had been civilians.

For several days after the attack, Mr Jung maintained that no civilians had been killed, and on Thursday he told parliament that he had correctly informed the public and deputies about the strike.

Wolfgang Schneiderhan, pictured on 13 November 2009
Army chief Wolfgang Schneiderhan resigned on Thursday

But Germany's top soldier Wolfgang Schneiderhan and senior Defence Ministry Peter Wichert resigned on Thursday, following reports that key information about the strike had been withheld.

The German newspaper, Bild, alleged key information over the incident had been repressed.

Citing a confidential army video and a military report, it said they showed that the German commander who ordered the strike, Col Georg Klein, had not been able to rule out the presence of civilians at the scene before he took action.

The newspaper said the report proved the defence ministry had been told there were clear indications of civilian casualties by the evening of 4 September.

It is not clear whether Mr Jung was aware of the report and the video.

Germany has more than 4,000 troops in Afghanistan, the third largest contingent after the US and Britain.

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