German soldiers play at Bosnia 'massacre'

The German army's top brass were in the firing line yesterday after revelations that conscripts training for peace-keeping duty in Bosnia had staged a mock massacre of civilians for fun, writes Imre Karacs in Bonn.

In a video prepared by the soldiers themselves and shown on the commercial television station SAT-1 this weekend, a group of conscripts are seen pretending to rape and murder fellow soldiers acting the roles of civilians.

The video was taped in the spring of 1996 at the Hammelburg training facility in central Germany. About 12 conscripts, some masked, are shown committing war crimes.

Volker Ruhe, the defence minister, commented: "This unbelievable behaviour is to be completely deplored. It will not be tolerated that soldiers ... allow their fantasies to get out of control during breaks in their training..."

The defence minister threatened "severe consequences" for the soldiers concerned, but it emerged yesterday that eight have since left the army and can no longer be prosecuted.