German Spies Deny Guiding US Bomb Raids In Iraq

German agents "gave us direct support. They gave us information for targeting," NDR television quoted a former U.S. military official as saying in a preview of a programme to be broadcast later on Thursday.

German Spies Deny Guiding US Bomb Raids In Iraq

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's foreign intelligence agency denied on Thursday a report that its spies in Baghdad had helped U.S. warplanes select bombing targets during the invasion of Iraq, which the Berlin government had strongly opposed.

German agents "gave us direct support. They gave us information for targeting," NDR television quoted a former U.S. military official as saying in a preview of a programme to be broadcast later on Thursday.

He said that on April 7, 2003 -- 18 days after the U.S. bombing began -- the Americans had received a report that a convoy of Mercedes cars, one of them possibly carrying Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, had been sighted in a Baghdad suburb.

The ex-Pentagon official said the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency asked the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign spy service, to send one of its Baghdad agents to the suburb of Mansur to check the tip.

After he confirmed the presence of the convoy, the report said, a U.S. plane dropped four bombs on the target area, killing at least 12 civilians, according to the report.

A BND spokesman confirmed the presence of two German intelligence agents in Iraq before and during the U.S.-led invasion. But he said the report, also published in the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, was "false and distorted".

"Contrary to allegations... we have to record for our part that no target data or bombing coordinates were made available to the parties conducting the war," the spokesman said.

FOREIGN MINISTER UNDER PRESSURE

The report threatened to embarrass Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who as chief of staff to then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had oversight of the security services at the time.

Asked if the Schroeder government knew of any BND support for the U.S.-led war, Steinmeier told reporters simply: "No".

Schroeder was elected to a second term in 2002 on a platform of strong opposition to the looming war in Iraq, declaring that Germany would not take part in any military "adventure" there.

The new report surfaced on the day his successor Angela Merkel, was to travel to Washington to meet President George W. Bush for the first time since taking office last November. Her conservatives were in opposition at the time of the war.

A German security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged the BND had shared information with the United States during the bombing phase of the war, but only to identify "non-targets" such as embassies, schools and hospitals in order to spare them from being hit.

He said other countries' agents had done the same, mindful of the mistaken targeting of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during NATO's bombing of Serbia in 1999.

The opposition Greens and Left Party demanded a debate in parliament, with Greens parliamentary leader Renate Kuenast saying any German help in U.S. bombing raids would be a "monstrous action".

The opposition is already piling pressure on the government, especially foreign minister Steinmeier, over the role of Germany's security services in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

It emerged last month that German security officials had questioned a German-Syrian terrorist suspect in a Syrian prison in 2002 at a time when the government had told his lawyer it had no idea of its whereabouts and had no access to him.

Steinmeier was also forced last month to defend the previous government's handling of the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who was held by the United States for five months in an Afghan prison before being released in May 2004.

By Mark Trevelyan, Security Correspondent

Source: Reuters

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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