The Bundestag on Friday voted to extend the deployment of about 500 maritime soldiers stationed in the Mediterranean and off the Horn of Africa in order to continue the fight against terrorism.
German soldiers will stay in Africa
Saying the measure is essential to German security, the German parliament overwhelmingly approved to continue supporting US-led anti-terrorism operations for one more year.
''This mission has a significant meaning for the security of Germany and other countries who are threatened by terrorism,'' said German Defense Minister Peter Struck during the parliament deliberations in the lower house, the Bundestag. He added that continued participation is part of Germany's responsibility as a member of the United Nations.
A crew members of the German frigate Luebeck in the harbor of Djibouti city.
The measure allows for 3,100 German soldiers but only 500 are currently deployed -- 300 in the port of Djibouti off the Horn of Africa and 200 in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. The deployment was set to expire Nov. 15.
The German military's main duties are to monitor shipping. In the past year, German military have carried out checks on 12,500 ships and searched 400 of them, looking for supplies and weapons destined for terrorist groups.
Afghan mission already extended
A German soldier in Kabul, Afghanistan
Germany began participating in operation ''Enduring Freedom'' soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. About 7,500 German soldiers are serving abroad with 2,000 soldiers acting as peacekeepers in Afghanistan. Germany, which extended its troop deployment in Afghanistan in September, provides the second largest force in the country and the soldiers to remain until October 2005 unless extended again.
The deployment -- the first outside Europe since World War II -- caused a heated debate in Germany, where a majority of the public opposed the war in Iraq. Germany has since 1945 been reluctant to participate in peacekeeping missions and only in the past decade has sent troops to the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere.
German government officials also said they will continue to support the anti-terror missions in a peacekeeping role but will not participate in an active fight against terrorism because of political, legal and practical considerations.
That opposition to the war in Iraq led to a cooling of trans-Atlantic relations that have only in the past year have begun to warm. But the German government has continued to pursue terrorists on its own soil and cooperate with American and other intelligence agencies working to prevent terrorist attacks, saying that Germany could not afford not to do so, as evidenced by the Madrid train attacks in March and the Sept. 11 terrorists' long residency in Germany. Although the German government opposed the war in Iraq and has refused to send troops, it has participated in training Iraqi policemen and soldiers.