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Former German soldiers planned to form mercenary group to fight in Yemen

Prosecutors arrest two men for trying to form a paramilitary force to fight in Yemen and other regional conflicts
Fighters loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed government man a position near the frontline facing Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the country's northeastern province of Marib, on 17 October 2021 (AFP)

Authorities in Germany arrested two former soldiers on Wednesday for attempting to set up a mercenary group of up to 150 members to fight in Yemen, the federal public prosecutor said.

According to a statement released by the attorney general's office and viewed by Middle East Eye, the men, identified as Arend-Adolf G. and Achim A., under privacy rules, were detained “on urgent suspicion of attempted formation of a terrorist organisation”.

The report claims the suspects decided to form a paramilitary group in early 2021 made up of former police officers and Bundeswehr soldiers.

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The men hoped they could “pacify” the conflict raging in Yemen between Iran-aligned Houthi fighters and the Saudi-led coalition. 

However, the primary motivation of the former German soldiers was financial and they had hoped that each mercenary would be paid around $46,500 a month.

To this end, the men contacted at least seven people with the goal of recruitment. They had also tried unsuccessfully to establish communication with Saudi Arabia in order to finance the group, the German prosecutor said in a statement.

“All of these efforts were unsuccessful because the Saudi government agencies contacted showed no reaction to the accused,” the prosecutor's office said.

The men were described as “persistent” in their efforts to start the paramilitary group. 

The prosecutor added that they "were aware that the unit they were to command would inevitably have to carry out acts of killing during their mission. Moreover, they expected that civilians would also be killed and injured in connection with combat operations". 

The suspects also had plans to use the force for missions in other regional conflicts, authorities stated. 

The new UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, said last month that the country was "stuck in an indefinite state of war", and resuming negotiations to end the six-year conflict would not be easy. 

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in Yemen's war in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Fighting has recently flared up in the city of Marib, the government’s last stronghold in northern Yemen. The Houthis have sent waves of fighters to attack the oil-rich strategic city and have been accused of targeting civilians. 

Saudi Arabia has responded by pummeling Houthi forces with air strikes as they try to cross the flat plains surrounding the city. Last week the coalition said it had killed around 1,000 Houthi fighters in air strikes.