As the United States dealt with the aftermath of the deadly downing of a U.S. chopper in Iraq on Sunday, Germany confirmed it will send elite anti-terror troops to protect its aid workers in the unstable country.
At least 15 U.S. soldiers died after a U.S. Chinook helicopter crashed on Sunday.
On Sunday, an American Chinook transport helicopter was apparently shot down by a missle near Falluja in central Iraq, killing at least 15 and wounding scores more. The attack caused the single worst day for U.S. casualties since major combat action in Iraq ended last spring and sparked concern for the U.S.-led occupation both in Washington and abroad.
“It filled me with great sadness to learn of the especially treacherous attack near Falluja that caused the death of 15 American soldiers. I would like to express my deepest sympathies for this loss to the families of the victims and to the entire American people,” German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder wrote in a letter of condolence to U.S. President George Bush.
Survivors of the chopper attack were flown on Monday to the U.S. airbase at Ramstein, Germany, and taken to a military hospital in Landstuhl.
While leading U.S. Republicans in Washington said more American troops may be needed to help increase security in the war-torn country, Joseph Biden, the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the United States might also have to reassess its Iraq strategy to get more help from allies.
“In the short term, we may need more American forces... and we have to be prepared to go back to our European friends and say 'we need more help, we are willing to give you more say',” Biden told CBS television.
France and Germany, both staunch opponents of the war to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, remain reluctant to get too involved in the reconstruction of the country unless U.S. President George Bush agrees to give more authority to the United Nations.
GSG-9 in Iraq
But in apparent concern for the German aid workers already helping out in Iraq, government officials confirmed that members of Germany’s elite GSG-9 anti-terror unit would accompany members of its THW disaster relief organization as they helped rebuild parts of the Iraqi drinking water infrastructure.
“Especially qualified members of the Federal Border Guard will protect the THW officials in Iraq,” a spokeswoman told Der Spiegel news magazine. The GSG-9, which is part of Germany’s Border Guard, was created in 1972 after a Palestinian terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the Olympics in Munich that year. The group’s most famous mission came in autumn 1977, when they rescued 86 hostages from a hijacked Lufthansa airliner in Mogadishu, Somalia.