Germany agrees to shoot down hijack-threat airliners

18th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

18 June 2004, BERLIN - Germany's air force gains explicit authority to shoot down hijacked airliners if there is acute danger they will be used as flying bombs, under a law passed in Berlin on Friday.

18 June 2004

BERLIN - Germany's air force gains explicit authority to shoot down hijacked airliners if there is acute danger they will be used as flying bombs, under a law passed in Berlin on Friday.

The bill, which had been mired in months of dispute over legal technicalities, was passed on the votes of Social Democrats and Greens supporting Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The act consolidates a range of provisions dealing with terrorist threats to aviation.

State police remain the prime force against terrorist attack, but can call in the air force, or Luftwaffe, to destroy an airliner if it appears headed for a major target such as a skyscraper or nuclear power plant.

A decision to shoot down a plane as a final resort would be taken by the country's defence minister.

Germany has debated such a consolidation law since the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, with nearly 3,000 dead, and an early 2003 flight by a mentally disturbed man in a light plane among the tower blocks of Frankfurt, which ended without mishap.

Jurists say the constitution clearly states what happens if Germany is attacked from abroad, but not what happens if planes taking off from German soil develop into a threat. In the German system, no action is legal without authorization by law.

Christian Democrats opposed the law, saying the constitution itself had to be changed to cope with a threat that was unimaginable 55 years ago when the constitution was passed.

DPA

Subject: German news

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