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Surprise removal of German spy chief

BBC News BBC News 27/04/2016
Gerhard Schindler at former monitoring base in Bad Aibling, (file pic 2014): Mr Schindler was criticised over revelations that the BND used the Bad Aibling base to spy for the NSA © Reuters Mr Schindler was criticised over revelations that the BND used the Bad Aibling base to spy for the NSA

The head of Germany's foreign intelligence service, Gerhard Schindler, is to leave his job early amid reports that he was forced out.

German Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier leaves after a secret services oversight panel in Berlin (6 May 2015): Chancellor Merkel's Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier confirmed reports that Mr Schindler was leaving his post © AFP Chancellor Merkel's Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier confirmed reports that Mr Schindler was leaving his post

The reason for his departure is unclear but he was widely criticised after it emerged that the BND had spied for the US National Security Agency (NSA) .

He will be replaced by Bruno Kahl, seen as close to Germany's finance minister.

"We need a new start," said a senior MP investigating the NSA affair.

Official confirmation of Mr Schindler's replacement came from Chancellor Angela Merkel's office on Wednesday after it had been reported hours earlier.

Mr Schindler, 63, has run the foreign intelligence service since 2012 and was due to retire in two years' time. There has been some suggestion that he suffered from ill health after the NSA controversy.

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Mr Schindler has had a difficult period in charge of the BND. The agency came under fire within Germany and from its neighbours over revelations that it had helped the NSA spy on European politicians, institutions and companies, using its monitoring station at Bad Aibling in Bavaria.

Last December, the agency was publicly rebuked by its own government for releasing a highly critical report on Saudi Arabia's "impulsive" foreign policy.

Some reports suggested that Mrs Merkel wanted the new chief in place before federal elections next year.

Patrick Sensburg, head of the Bundestag's NSA committee, said a change at the top of the BND would provide an opportunity for much-needed reform.

Some MPs said they were were concerned by his early departure, which will occur on 1 July. Centre-left SPD spokesman Burkhard Lischka said Mr Schindler had understood that the foreign intelligence agency had to open up "at least a little", adding that he had also backed reform of the service.

Announcing the decision, the chancellor's spokesman, Peter Altmaier, said the intelligence services faced "shifting security challenges" as well as changes expected as a result of the parliamentary inquiry into its links with the NSA.

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