Peter Struck, a former German defense minister who strongly opposed the Iraq war, died Dec. 19. He was 69. (Ingo Wagner/EPA)

Peter Struck, a former German defense minister who was a vehement opponent of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, died Dec. 19 in a Berlin hospital after a heart attack. He was 69.

His family announced the death.

Mr. Struck, a plain-spoken politician who was a leading law­maker for Germany’s center-left Social Democrats for almost three decades, served as Germany’s defense minister from 2002 to 2005.

While he opposed the Iraq war, Mr. Struck oversaw the early years of Germany’s military engagement in Afghanistan, famously announcing that “German security is being defended in the Hindu Kush,” the mountains of Afghanistan and northern Pakistan.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who originally came to power in a coalition with Mr. Struck’s party in 2005, called him “a great parliamentarian” who strongly defended his positions but was always a reliable partner.

Since 2010, Mr. Struck had led the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a foundation affiliated with his party.

Mr. Struck was often pictured smoking a long-stemmed pipe. He loved riding his motorcycle — he boasted in a 2011 interview that he had put more than 40,000 miles on it in three years.

He was a lawmaker from 1980 to 2009 and served for many years as the Social Democrats’ chief parliamentary whip and caucus leader.

— Associated Press