German troops kill civilian - Afghan official

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan, Jan 18 (Reuters) - German troops with a NATO-led contingent killed an Afghan civilian and wounded a second person on Sunday at a roadside checkpoint in northern Kunduz province, a senior police official said.

Abdul Razaaq Yaqoubi, Kunduz police chief, told Reuters troops fired at a car with two people inside.

German armed forces confirmed only that NATO-led troops had shot two locals, killing one, after a car acted suspiciously on the approach to a temporary checkpoint. The barrier had been set up because of a suicide attack warning.

"Despite hand signals and warning shots, the car didn't stop and instead sped towards the checkpoint. Given the escalation, soldiers then opened fire with small arms," the German Federal Armed Forces said in a statement.

Both NATO and the German Armed forces declined to confirm the nationality of the troops that opened fire.

The Kunduz area is patrolled mainly by NATO's 4,000-strong German contingent which is barred by Berlin from operating in combat areas further south.

The region was mostly peaceful for years after the 2001 ouster of the Taliban by U.S.-backed Afghan forces, but a fierce campaign by insurgents to reclaim the territory has given the German troops a tough new challenge more recently.

A storm over Germany's presence there erupted in November after a German-ordered air strike near Kunduz killed scores of civilians. The Afghan government said 30 non-combatants died, as well as 69 Taliban fighters.

The attack cost the chief of the armed forces and a minister their jobs, sparking a parliamentary inquiry that also threatens current Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

A poll earlier this month by ARD television showed 71 percent of Germans want Chancellor Angela Merkel to pull her soldiers out of Afghanistan as fast as possible -- the highest recorded in the monthly survey. (Additional reporting by Paul Carrell in Berlin, writing by Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul; Editing by Charles Dick)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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