BERLIN - Germany on Sunday said a photograph showing some of its policemen in Afghanistan posing in front of a skull-and-crossbones flag denigrated the country's image.
The 2009 photograph showed five policemen charged with protecting the German ambassador posing before a Jolly Roger flag in front of the embassy in Kabul.
One of them had a yellow plastic duck perched on a shoulder and most of the men had their faces covered with scarves.
An interior ministry statement cited by Der Spiegel magazine, which printed the photograph in its Monday edition, said the snap "seriously damaged" the country's image and stressed it was a "breach of duty".
But federal police spokesman Alexander Geyer played down the controversy saying it "was a bit of ribbing between colleagues, one should not read too much into it".
Police said no investigations had been launched as most of the men were unidentifiable.
Der Spiegel said the photograph was a result of a "dare" between the elite police unit and a crack anti-terror unit, the GSG9.
In 2003, some German soldiers stationed in Afghanistan created a storm by posing for photographs in front of a skull.