Soldier denies killing comrade in prank

A German soldier who accidentally shot dead another soldier in Afghanistan testified Wednesday that the accident was caused by a jammed gun, not a prank. The 21-year-old is facing charges of manslaughter and disobeying orders.

Soldier denies killing comrade in prank
Photo: DPA

In a statement at the start of the soldier’s trial in the eastern German town of Gera, the prosecutor claimed he was aiming a P8 handgun at his comrade’s head when it accidentally fired a round. The incident happened inside a tent in an army outpost near the Afghan city of Pol-i Khomri in December 2010.

The prosecution’s case is based on witness statements and a technical report that apparently rules out the weapon misfiring.

The accused soldier claimed that the shot went off when he hit the bottom of the magazine because it had jammed. After it went off, the soldier said he threw the gun on a nearby bed and rushed to the injured man’s aid. His comrades then sent him out of the tent.

The soldier also denied that he had been playing a prank on the victim. He said he had pointed the gun at the door, and not realized that the victim had come in. “I was concentrating on my weapon,” he said.

At the time of the incident, the soldier said he had already spent two months at the camp, and was extremely tense because he had been assigned to go on a mission the next day. He added that the soldiers in the camp were under orders to carry a loaded weapon at all times.

A 20-year-old witness testified that the accused pointed the weapon at the victim’s head. “There was an unbelievable bang and fog in the tent,” he said, before describing how the accused’s face went pale as he walked to the bed and put the gun down, while someone else screamed.

The witness also said he did not notice the accused hitting the bottom of the magazine beforehand and that the handgun the army uses was very reliable if properly cared for. “It can only go off if I pull the trigger,” he said. He added that their instructions were not to use force if the gun was jammed, but to put the safety on and remove the magazine.

But the witness also added that constantly carrying a loaded gun round meant that many soldiers lost their respect for their weapons. He said many soldiers played games with their guns, despite instructions not to.

Another witness confirmed that soldiers occasionally indulged in gun-play, and often took photos of each other posing with the weapons pointed at each other.

The accused was discharged from the army in March and is currently in training to be a mechanic.

DAPD/The Local/bk

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.