Merkel 'deeply regrets' any innocent Afghan victims

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday she “deeply regrets” any innocent victims in Afghanistan, after an air strike last week ordered by a German commander left scores dead.

“Every innocent person killed in Afghanistan is one too many,” Merkel said in a speech to Parliament, “Any innocent person killed or hurt, including through German actions, I deeply regret.”

“It is important to me as German chancellor to express this today, and to the Afghan people, and I think I say this in all your names,” Merkel told deputies, promising a “open” inquiry.

“I will ensure that we will not put a gloss on anything,” she said.

The air strike in northern Afghanistan by US aircraft on two fuel trucks stolen by insurgents, ordered by a German commander, left 54 people dead, according to local officials, who say the dead were mostly militants.

But other sources put the death toll far higher and there are contradictory reports about the number of civilians killed in the strike.

Germany only began major military deployments abroad a decade ago, breaking a post-war taboo, and the air strike has moved what was already an unpopular mission up the agenda ahead of general elections in less than three weeks.—AFP

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