Government Sending More Troops To Somalia With AM-Somalia-Headquarters
BONN, Germany (AP) _ The government decided Tuesday to forge ahead with plans to deploy 1,700 soldiers in volatile Somalia, resisting calls to halt what many Germans oppose as a risky mission.
The Cabinet agreed that shirking a commitment to the United Nations would badly damage Germany’s international image, chief government spokesman Dieter Vogel said.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s decision to send peacekeepers to help distribute food and medicine in Somalia marks the latest step by the German leader to play a bigger role in international security - and possibly secure a seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Germany has about 270 soldiers in the east African nation and 250 more are to go Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said. The fresh troops are to fly first to Mogadishu before joining the other German soldiers at their base in Belet Huen, about 180 miles northwest of Mogadishu. The remaining German troops are to be sent to Somalia over the next several weeks.
Lt. Col. Gerhard Sontheim, an army spokesman in Mogadishu, said the German contingent is the only member of the 27-nation U.N. coalition not authorized to engage in offensive combat. The troops will mainly provide water supplies and humanitarian assistance and repair roads and airfields, he said.
But ″if we are attacked we can respond with adequate means, which means weapons,″ he said Tuesday.
The opposition Social Democrats want Germany to pull out of Somalia, where 35 U.N. peacekeepers have been killed and more than 100 wounded since June 5 in attacks by rebel militiamen in Mogadishu.
Last week, four reporters were killed by an angry mob in the Somali capital investigating a U.N. helicopter attack. One of them was Hansjoerg Krauss, a German photographer who worked for The Associated Press.
German media devoted considerable attention to Krauss’ death in reports that raised questions about whether U.N. troops sent to Somalia to keep the peace and restore order were instead becoming combatants.
The main contingent of German troops in Somalia has not come under fire, but a small group of German soldiers was at Mogadishu airport last week when it was shelled several times by rebel militia.
None of the nine soldiers was hurt and they did not return fire, but the incident served to sharpen debate over the mission.