A German public prosecutor on Wednesday began an investigation into reports that a German security firm has been contracted to provide a Somali warlord with more than 100 German ex-soldiers.
Wolfgang Schweer of the Muenster public prosecutor's office said he was looking into the deal reportedly agreed between Asgaard German Security Group and Somali opposition politician Galadid Abdinur Ahmad Darman.
"We are checking whether the offence of recruiting for a foreign army has been committed here," Schweer said.
Ahmad Darman, who is based in the United States, claims he is the legitimate president of Somalia. In an interview with German public broadcaster NDR, he said the soldiers "would be ordered to fight if necessary. They will fight alongside our units."
Asgaard said in a press release "the contract includes wide-ranging tasks and areas of competence: from strategic planning to security to implementation of all measures that are necessary to restore peace and stability."
Asgaard's managing director, Thomas Kaltegaertner, has declined to comment on the Muenster prosecutor's investigation, according to German broadcaster ARD.
German lawmakers have also come down hard on the deal, criticizing it as a potential violation of United Nations sanctions against the conflict-stricken East African country.
Rainer Arnold, defense spokesperson for the opposition Social Democrats described the Asgaard deployment as "not acceptable," adding that "legislation should be created to limit such things."
Greens parliamentarian Omid Nouripour said Tuesday his party would investigate the deployment. Nouripour also criticized the German government for not implementing tougher laws to prevent ex-soldiers from serving as mercenaries in foreign wars.
The German Foreign Ministry acknowledged that it knew nothing about the contract or the activities of Asgaard. The Defense Ministry also confirmed that it has never entered into any contractual agreement with the company.
Security experts warn that a Somali warlord backed by highly trained Western soldiers could shift the fragile political balance in the country and spark a bloodbath.
"If a German company now trains and supports a Somali warring faction then it is surely against the interests of the German government," Annette Weber from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs told NDR.
Editor: Rob Turner