German minister quits over Afghan cover-up scandal

Berlin, Nov 27 (DPA) Former German defence minister Franz Josef Jung resigned his post as labour minister Friday over an alleged cover-up of civilian casualties in an airstrike in Afghanistan earlier this year.

“I take the political responsibility for the internal information policy in the defence ministry” he told reporters in Berlin.”

Jung, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), was defence minister Sep 4, when a German officer ordered an airstrike that likely killed dozens of civilians.

In the subsequent days, Jung likely withheld his knowledge of civilian casualties from the public, according to a report Thursday in the mass circulation daily Bild.

However in his resignation address Jung said, “I have correctly informed the public as well as the parliament about what I knew.”

News of Jung’s imminent resignation came first in the government’s regular Friday press conference, when after over an hour of questioning, Merkel’s spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm was asked if he did not know Jung would resign or if he was merely not saying at this point in time. He responded: “The latter.”

A session of parliament’s defence committee was meeting Friday to discuss the crisis. On Thursday, Germany’s top military officer, General Wolfgang Schneiderhan, resigned over his role in the scandal.

Newly-appointed Defence Minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg said Friday that the resignation was solely due to Schneiderhan’s failure to provide him with documents relating to the September attack on his arrival in the ministry in October.

Merkel was due to meet with officials for talks to appoint a successor to Jung later Friday.