German peacekeepers pose with skull

The German defence minister has ordered an investigation after soldiers serving in Afghanistan were pictured posing with a skull in a newspaper.

    The story was headlined 'German soldiers desecrate dead person'

    The photographs show four German soldiers from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) displaying the skull and were published by Bild newspaper on its front page under the headline, German soldiers desecrate dead person.

    Franz Josef Jung, the defence minister, said: "These pictures revolt and mystify me."

    In one picture, a soldier mounts it on the front of the group's patrol vehicle, which bears both the German flag and the acronym for the international force, Isaf. Another shows a soldier in a camouflage uniform and bullet-proof vest posing with the skull next to his exposed private parts.

    Bild said the photographs were taken in spring 2003.

    The skull was reportedly found in a gravel pit on the outskirts of Kabul, but it was unclear whether it belonged to an Afghan.

    Criminal proceedings

    Jung has threatened to dismiss the soldiers and said they were likely to face not only a military investigation but criminal proceedings.

    Jung (L) threatened to dismiss
    the soldiers in the photographs

    "People who behave like this have no place in the Bundeswehr [German army]," he said.

    Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the general inspector of the Bundeswehr, said two soldiers had been taken in for questioning, one of whom has now left the army.
    "One is still a soldier, the one is not. Both are being questioned," he said.
    Schneiderhan said one of the men had come forward after seeing the pictures.

    Peacekeeping missions

    The scandal broke hours before the German cabinet was due to discuss Germany's continued involvement in Afghanistan and coincided with the defence ministry's first policy manifesto since 1994. Jung used the manifesto to state Germany's readiness to take on more international peacekeeping missions.
    "It is clear that such behaviour cannot be tolerated from German soldiers. It runs counter to the values and codes of conduct we try to instill in our soldiers," Jung said.
    The state prosecutor's office in Potsdam, outside Berlin, has launched a criminal investigation into the affair.

    Germany is the second biggest supplier of peacekeepers to Afghanistan and holds the command of Isaf in the north of the country. About 2,750 Germans are serving with the force.
    The Bundestag, or lower house of the German parliament, voted last month to extend their mandate in Afghanistan until October 2007.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    Learn what India's parties' symbols mean by drawing them

    Learn what India's parties' symbols mean by drawing them

    More than 2,300 political parties have registered for the largest electoral exercise in the world.

    Visualising every Saudi coalition air raid on Yemen

    Visualising every Saudi coalition air raid on Yemen

    Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Arab states have launched more than 19,278 air raids across Yemen.

    Why did Bush go to war in Iraq?

    Why did Bush go to war in Iraq?

    No, it wasn't because of WMDs, democracy or Iraqi oil. The real reason is much more sinister than that.