Iraq deaths shake Germans;Berlin issues travel warnings
13 April 2004
HAMBURG – The apparent killing of two elite German border policemen on a highway near the Iraqi hotspot of Fallujah has appalled a nation that unabashedly opposed the US campaign to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein by force.
The news of apparent deaths came as Germany issued a warning against travel from Kuwait into southern Iraq, saying the border crossing could be closed at any time, making return difficult.
This followed an announcement by Berlin last week called on all German nationals to leave Iraq because of fighting in that country. In the latest alert, it said foreigners might also be attacked if visiting the area near Basra.
In the small village of Herresbach where one of the missing policemen grew up, residents expressed their horror at the news from Iraq.
“Shocked isn’t enough to describe it. We all feel stunned,” said Irmgard Heinz, a woman neighbour who knew the 25-year-old man well.
News reports indicate the two men were shot dead Wednesday after their Baghdad-bound motorcade barged past an insurgents’ roadblock.
ARD television in Germany reported that the bodies were believed to be in a nearby grave, adding that German diplomats in Baghdad had identified the two in a videotape of the bodies before burial.
The two were members of GSG-9, a paramilitary unit of the Federal Border Police. GSG-9’s mission in Baghdad was to guard the German embassy, with members rotated in and out from the Jordanian capital Amman.
Officers of the guard have been counselling the family of the man from Herresbach, according to neighbours. Catholic parish priest Alois Richter led prayers for the young border guard’s soul during Easter mass on Sunday.
Neighbours described him as level-headed, a popular stalwart of the village soccer team, who was engaged to be married and had owned a plot of land to soon build his own house in the village, population 400.
Germany helped to spearhead opposition to the US-led war in Iraq, but has not been spared from deaths. In March, two employees of a German water-pump factory died in an ambush at Musajjib while on their way to a construction site.
One of the engineers was a 44-year-old married German, the other a 57-year-old single Dutch national who had been a longtime resident of the northern German town of Heide. Relatives were angry that the Koester company ever sent them to Iraq.
Observers said the deaths were likely to reinforce the ordinary German’s deep-seated pacifism.
Public support for the deployment of troops abroad has been lukewarm at best. Even German peacekeeping in Afghanistan, where the Germans provide the largest national contingent, has brought out very little enthusiasm.
Senior German officials are currently worried that after Iraq regains its sovereignty on 30 June, Baghdad may formally request that NATO send stability troops, placing Berlin under renewed pressure over Iraq.
Subject: German news