FRANKFURT: Germany could send 1,200 soldiers to the Middle East by the end of the year to support a coalition battling Islamic State, Germany’s top defense official told a newspaper yesterday as his minister backed an international alliance against the group. Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to support the offensive against Islamic State during talks with French President Francois Hollande, who called for more countries to help fight the militants after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.
Germany’s defence minister Ursula von der Leyen called for the alliance for a limited time to combat the militants in a commentary in an advance copy of the Bild newspaper due out on Monday.
She said the aim of what she called a “special purpose” alliance was to “weaken ISIS, to limit its freedom for manoeuvre, to destroy its training camps, to win back city by city, destroy its oil revenue and break the aura of invincibility”. Germany’s troops plan, which still needs approval from parliament and was outlined by Germany’s Chief of Defence Volker Wieker in Bild am Sonntag, does not include direct involvement in the coalition’s air offensive.
In Germany, the public still dislikes sending forces overseas except for in peace missions, in part due to memories of Nazi militarism. Under the plan, a German frigate would accompany France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, Wieker said in the interview. German planes would refuel the jets of the coalition as well as take photographs in the region.
“From a military point of view for the servicing of the planes and ships, about 1,200 soldiers would be necessary,” Wieker told the newspaper.
He said he hoped to obtain the necessary mandate by the end of the year. Wieker also said Germany was in talks with Jordan and Turkey about stationing Tornado aircraft for reconnaissance in the region. German officials said Merkel saw a bigger German role as the price to pay for Hollande’s support in tackling the refugee crisis in Europe.
Meanwhile, clashes broke out yesterday between hundreds of asylum seekers at a shelter in Berlin, in the second mass brawl to erupt over the weekend in Germany’s crowded migrant accommodations.
Several people were arrested at the fight that started in the food distribution queues at the former airport of Tempelhof, which has been turned into a temporary accommodation for 1,200 refugees, an AFP photographer witnessed. The brawl came just hours after another mass fight at a refugee shelter in the Berlin suburb of Spandau, where migrants went at each other with fire extinguishers, a police spokesman said.
Windows were smashed, sofas were thrown, and fire extinguishers emptied, said police, adding that several residents of the shelter were wounded. Some 500 people evacuated the building “in fear and panic” over the dispute. Separately, two other fights broke out in other shelters. At a refugee home in Berlin’s Kreuzberg area, a 18-year-old struck a 17-year-old on the head with a belt, police said.
Meanwhile, five people were injured in a fight between Syrians in the showers of an accommodation in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. Such disturbances have occurred before in other shelters in Germany, with tensions escalating quickly between often traumatized people from different cultures sharing packed spaces.
At the same time, they have been relatively rare given the sheer numbers of new arrivals-Germany expects to take in a million asylum seekers this year alone, and has put up hundreds of thousands in flats, army barracks, sports halls and tent cities.
Germany’s police union had called for refugees to be separated by religion and by country of origin to minimize the potential for conflict. – AFP