Munich attack sparks calls to lift post-Nazi era clamps on military
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Munich attack sparks calls to lift post-Nazi era clamps on military

Current constitution says Germany can call in army domestically only for a national emergency; politicians spar over tough issue

Policemen stand in front of the Olympia-Einkaufszentrum shopping center on July 23, 2016 in Munich, southern Germany, one day after a teenage German-Iranian gunman killed nine people and wounded 16. (AFP/ Christof Stache)
Policemen stand in front of the Olympia-Einkaufszentrum shopping center on July 23, 2016 in Munich, southern Germany, one day after a teenage German-Iranian gunman killed nine people and wounded 16. (AFP/ Christof Stache)

The top security official in the federal German state of Bavaria has urged a constitutional change to allow the German military to be able to be deployed in support of police during attacks, upending rules put in place following Nazi lack of restraint during World War II.

Because of the excesses of the Nazi era, Germany’s post-war constitution only allows the military, known as the Bundeswehr, to be deployed domestically in cases of national emergency.

But in the aftermath of a shooting attack in Munich on Friday in which nine people were killed, and with European jitters over Islamist terror on the rise, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that the regulations are now obsolete and that Germans have a “right to safety.”

“We have an absolutely stable democracy in our country,” he said. “It would be completely incomprehensible … if we had a terrorist situation like Brussels in Frankfurt, Stuttgart or Munich and we were not permitted to call in the well-trained forces of the Bundeswehr, even though they stand ready.”

Herrmann was referring to a couple of attacks in March in the Belgian capital in which over 30 people were killed when suicide bombers detonated their vests at the Brussels airport and at a metro station in the city center almost simultaneously.

Police officers stand near subway station at the mall Olympia Einkaufzentrum OEZ in Munich on July 23, 2016, a day after a gunman went on a shooting rampage in the busy shopping center, killing nine people. (AFP PHOTO/DPA/Karl-Josef Hildenbrand)
Police officers stand near subway station at the mall Olympia Einkaufzentrum OEZ in Munich on July 23, 2016, a day after a gunman went on a shooting rampage in the busy shopping center, killing nine people. (AFP PHOTO/DPA/Karl-Josef Hildenbrand)

According to the German-language Tagesschau news site, Herrmann spoke in favor of lifting the restrictions and said the military can also be used to respond to domestic terror threats.

That sentiment was echoed by another state interior minister, Baden-Wuerttemberg’s Thomas Strobl of the ruling Christian Democratic Party, who said that while the deployment of troops was unnecessary in the Munich attack, “should we have a large-scale, serious terrorist situation, we must also bring in the Bundeswehr.”

Criticism came from opposition lawmakers from the Social Democratic Party and the Greens who warned against “domestic calls for more surveillance, isolation and military [intervention],” and against using the Munich attack for political gain.

Greens politician Irene Mihalic said the sight of military troops on the streets on Munich would have triggered panic, according to Tagesschau.

Munich deployed 2,300 police officers to lock down the city Friday night, calling in elite SWAT teams from around the country and neighboring Austria, during the shooting at the mall and a nearby McDonald’s restaurant.

It was the second attack targeting victims apparently at random in less than a week in Bavaria. On Monday, a 17-year-old Afghan asylum-seeker wounded five people in an ax-and-knife rampage near Wuerzburg, for which the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility.

On Sunday, terror seemed to strike again as a man — reportedly a Syrian asylum-seeker — killed one person and injured two more in a machete attack in the southern town of Reutlingen

Ali Sonboly (Courtesy)
Ali Sonboly (Courtesy)

In the fog of the Friday attack, perpetrated by German-Iranian David Ali Sonboly, 18, witnesses had reported as many as three shooters and the city’s public transit was completely shut down for hours as authorities searched the streets.

Herrmann said in other European nations it goes without saying that the military is brought in to aid during “extreme domestic threats” and he said Bavaria would urge changes so that it is allowed in Germany as well.

Weapons are strictly controlled in Germany and police are still trying to determine exactly how the shooter obtained the Glock 17 used in the attack.

Heimberger said it appears “very likely” that the suspect purchased the weapon illegally online. It was a pistol that had been rendered unusable and sold as a prop, and then restored to its full functioning. Its serial numbers were filed off and David S. had no permit to purchase weapons, authorities have said.

Police and firefighters near a shopping mall, during shooting on July 22, 2016 in Munich, Germany. (AFP Photo/dpa/Matthias Balk)
Police and firefighters near a shopping mall, during shooting on July 22, 2016 in Munich, Germany. (AFP Photo/dpa/Matthias Balk)

Even though it was an illegal weapon, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel suggested Sunday that even stricter controls on legal access to weapons are needed, telling the Funke Media Group that “we need to do everything further possible to curb the access to deadly weapons and strictly control them.”

“How can it be that an unstable, or possibly even mentally ill, 18-year-old comes into possession of a firearm?” he asked.

Germany’s top security official, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, said that Germany’s weapons regulations are already “very strict” and appropriate. He said authorities first need to determine where the shooter got the weapon from.

“We’ll then have to look very carefully at whether there then needs to be a possibility for additional legal action,” he said.

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