Reichstag plane crash sparks security debate

25th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

25 July 2005, BERLIN - A plane crash in the heart of Berlin's government quarter and the series of deadly terrorist attacks in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh and London have triggered a debate about security risks to Germany just as the nation gears up for an election.

25 July 2005

BERLIN - A plane crash in the heart of Berlin's government quarter and the series of deadly terrorist attacks in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh and London have triggered a debate about security risks to Germany just as the nation gears up for an election.

While Germany Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe has announced plans to ban flights by private planes over central Berlin, the government and opposition have been battling it out over whether the army should be deployed within the country to help tackle terrorist threats.

After a weekend of attacks in Egypt, Istanbul and Iraq, German Interior Minister Otto Schily warned in an interview with the daily Bild against hysteria resulting from the series of explosions but conceded that Germany too faced threats from Islamic terrorists.

"If we allows ourselves to be moved by fear and concern, then the terrorists would have already achieved their goal," Schily said. "Watchfulness and calmness are the best means against terror."

"Germany also faces threats from Islamic terrorism," Schily said, adding that the security authorities have already uncovered and as a consequence prevented several attempts at mounting attacks in the country.

The move to introduce the small aircraft ban came after a single-engine plane crashed Friday evening on the expansive lawn between Berlin's historic Reichstag parliament building and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's office.

Officials quickly ruled out a terrorist link in the crash.

But coming at a time of heightened terrorist alert, the incident immediately raised questions about planes flying into such highly sensitive areas in the German capital and as a result provoking calls for additional security measures.

Police say the 39-year-old pilot committed suicide and have linked his death to the disappearance of his wife.

"We will introduce a no-fly zone for recreational planes over the government quarter," German Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe told reporters Sunday.

"This will prevent hobby pilots and private planes from flying over the area near the Reichstag and the Chancellery," he said.

But with an election now looming over the country, the plane crash and the bombings means that a debate about what action needs to be taken to head off the risks posed by terrorism threatens to hijack the campaign for the September 18 poll.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrat-led (SPD) government has announced plans to create a special anti-terrorist file.

However, a controversial call by the opposition Chancellor Angela Merkel to use the army to prevent terrorist attacks has sparked criticism, in particular from within the ranks of Schroeder's ruling SPD-Green coalition.

Rejecting Merkel's proposal, German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said in an interview with the daily Die Welt on Monday there were good reasons why there was a separation betweeen the military and the police.

Moreover, she said "our police have their tasks under control and do not need the support of the army."

DPA

Subject: German news

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