Two German ex-soldiers detained over plot to fight in Yemen

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BERLIN – German police on Wednesday detained two former soldiers on terrorism-related charges for allegedly trying to form a mercenary group of up to 150 members to fight in Yemen, the Federal Public Prosecutor said.

Police searched the suspects’ apartments in Munich and the district of Calw, near the city of Stuttgart, and other premises.

The suspects, identified as Arend-Adolf G. and Achim A., under privacy rules, had decided in early 2021 to form a paramilitary unit consisting of former German Army soldiers and police member, the prosecutor said in a statement.

The men were in contact with at least seven people with the goal of recruitment and had tried unsuccessfully to establish communication with Saudi Arabia in order to finance the group, the office said.

Their primary motivation was the prospect of each mercenary earning around 40,000 euros ($46,500) a month, it said, adding that the men wanted to “pacify” the six-year-old war in Yemen between Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government.

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A Saudi-led alliance intervened in Yemen in March 2015 but the war, which has killed tens of thousands and caused a humanitarian crisis, has been in military stalemate for years.

Beyond the mission in Yemen, the two had also planned to make the unit available for missions in other conflict areas.

The German military has been plagued by a series of incidents in past years that has raised questions about the extent of extremist elements within the army.

The most prominent case prompted the disbanding of an entire company of the elite special forces unit KSK in 2020 after police seized weapons and ammunition during a raid on the property of a KSK soldier in the eastern state of Saxony.

($1 = 0.8605 euros)

(Reporting by Miranda Murray, Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Angus MacSwan)