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Germany

German Elite Forces in Hot Pursuit of Al Qaeda

A report in the German daily "Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung" that says German soldiers are involved in covert combat operations against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan since weeks has led to much surprise.

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Snipers of the German military special forces, (KSK) in camouflage gear

The newspaper reported that about 80 to 100 members of elite German commando units (KSK) have been fighting for weeks in the forefront against members of the terror organisation, "Al Qaeda" in Afghanistan.

This is in addition to the official 600 German soldiers, who are part of the multinational International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and are involved in maintaining security.

The ISAF is led by the British and is assigned to maintain peace and order in the Afghan capital Kabul and support the interim Afghan government.

The newspaper claims that US senators and security experts in the German government have confirmed the report, though the German Defence Ministry remains tight-lipped.

It remains unclear whether the participation of elite German commandos in the US military action against Al Qaeda, "Operation Enduring Freedom", is in keeping with the agreement that the German government and Parliament reached when considering sending German soldiers to Afghanistan.

At that time the decision to send German soldiers to Afghanistan was taken after much wrangling and debating with the Green Party, Chancellor Schröders (Social Democratic Party) junior coalition partner.

It was also agreed that German soldiers would only participate in peacekeeping operations and not in actual combat.

The chairman of the Defence committee of the German Parliament, Helmut Wiezcorek of the Social Democratic Party was quoted in the paper as saying, "German commando soldiers are fighting together with the Americans". Germany has "military substance" to offer in important areas, he said.

According to the newspaper report, German special elite troops are hunting for hideouts of Al Qaeda members in the mountains in Afghanistan and are assigned the same responsibilities as the American and British special troops. Their operations were earlier restricted to the city of Kandahar.

Debate on further military operations

Meanwhile another debate over the role of German soldiers this time in training operations in Kuwait broke out in the German Parliament on Friday.

With the United States threatening the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, members of Germany's opposition parties expressed concern about the dangers the country's soldiers could face while they train in neighbouring Kuwait.

The manoeuvres in Kuwait are being led by American forces. About 170 German troops, specially trained in defending against nuclear, biological and chemical weapons will be participating. Later they plan to conduct joined training exercises with Kuwaiti forces.

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