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Catholics back Protestant criticism of Afghanistan war

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Catholics back Protestant criticism of Afghanistan war
Photo: DPA
08:34 CET+01:00
Germany’s Catholic bishops echoed Protestant criticism of the country's military presence in Afghanistan over the weekend, as Bundeswehr troops shot and killed an Afghan civilian.

Munich Catholic Archbishop Reinhard Marx told broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk on Sunday that Margot Käßmann, head of Germany's Protestant churches, had raised an important debate about the country's role in Afghanistan. Käßmann has been the subject of intense criticism by politicians and the DBwV German Military Association after condemning the military operation in Afghanistan as immoral, but Marx told the station that the row was “long overdue.”

And head of Germany’s Catholic Bishop’s Conference Robert Zollitsch called for a re-evaluation of military service in Afghanistan and “new decisions.”

On Monday the Protestant church umbrella organisation the EKD greeted this support from the Catholics.

“It is the expected word of solidarity with EKD head Margot Käßmann,” the organisation’s deputy head Nikolaus Schneider told daily Frankfurter Rundschau.

Schneider went on to call criticism of Käßmann from the military Reverend in Mazari Sharif via a letter “in bad form.” The reverend’s choice to publish the letter, in which he said that the EKD leader had injured soldiers with her words made him “speechless,” Schneider said.

The debate over the morality of military service in the region expanded as more violence erupted there over the weekend.

German soldiers opened fire on a car speeding towards a checkpoint in northern Afghanistan, killing an Afghan and wounding another, the military said Sunday.

Soldiers had erected a temporary checkpoint in Kunduz after warnings of a suicide attack. A Toyota car had suddenly pulled out of the checkpoint queue and sped towards the guards, the German military said in a statement.

“Despite hand signals and warning shots, the car did not stop but continued its journey at high speed towards the checkpoint,” it said. “As a result of this escalation, the soldiers opened fire with their handguns and shot and wounded two passengers in the vehicle.”

The injured Afghans were taken to hospital in Kunduz. “Later, we received the news from the hospital that one of the patients had died in the meantime,” the statement said.

It is not clear if they were civilians.

The shooting follows a similar incident on Friday in which German troops shot and injured another Afghan driver whom they said had been speeding towards a checkpoint.

Germany has the third largest international contingent in the NATO force with about 4,300 troops, most of them in the north where security has deteriorated this year with a sharp rise in attacks on foreign forces.

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