BERLIN: Germany on Thursday expelled the US secret services station chief in Berlin in an escalating row over alleged American spying against its long-time European ally.
The worst diplomatic rift in years comes after two suspected US spy cases were uncovered in less than a week in Germany, where anger still simmers over the NSA surveillance scandal sparked by fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
"The representative of the US intelligence services at the embassy of the United States of America has been told to leave Germany," government spokesman Steffen Seibert said, announcing a highly unusual move among NATO allies.
The demand was based on two probes by German prosecutors of suspected US spying "as well as outstanding questions over the last several months about the activities of the US secret services in Germany", said Seibert.
"The government takes these developments very seriously," he added in a statement.
The White House refused to comment, but the US embassy in Berlin and the National Security Council both stressed that it is "essential" that cooperation continue on security matters as "it keeps Germans and Americans safe".
Merkel -- whose mobile phone was in the past targeted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) -- pointedly reminded the United States that security "depends on trust" between allies.
Her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was far more outspoken, fuming about the suspected US spying that "so much stupidity just makes you want to cry". In the latest case, German police on Wednesday searched the Berlin-area home and office of a man who, local media reported, is a German defence ministry employee accused of passing secrets to the United States.
The case followed news last Friday that a 31-year-old German BND foreign intelligence service operative had been arrested, suspected of having sold over 200 documents to the CIA.
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