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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 19:26 GMT 20:26 UK
Germans torn by dilemma
Ulrike Heike Mueller and daughter Stella, five, in a protest at the Brandenburg Gate
Germans have taken part in protests against retaliation
By Patrick Bartlett in Frankfurt

"Chancellor, how bad will it be for us?" read the headline in one German newspaper this week.

Behind the rhetorical question - directed at the German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder - was a colour photograph of the explosion as the Boeing 767 hit the first World Trade Center tower.

Berlin solidarity parade
A parade in Berlin in support of America drew thousands
Initial shock and outrage at the attacks on America are now hedged with a nervous realisation that Germany may itself become a target, once the US and her allies hit back.

On Wednesday, the Berlin government announced a DM3bn package of anti-terrorist security measures.

In a sense, Germany is already in the front line of the new "war" against terrorism.

That became clear with the disclosure last week that three of the hijackers had lived as students in Hamburg.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office believes they were members of an extremist Muslim group, who used their base in Germany to plan attacks against America.

Police have extended their investigations across the country, following up hundreds of leads.

Police in Hamburg protect the identity of a detainee
German police acted on a tip-off from the FBI
In a speech to the German Parliament Gerhard Schroeder observed that many Germans were afraid.

He said: "They are afraid of terrorism, but also afraid of war.

"The political, economic and cultural elites of our country must not allow this fear to paralyse us."

Mr Schroeder's declaration that Germany stands unreservedly at the United States' side will do nothing to allay public anxiety about any German involvement in military retaliation.

Despite the fact that more than 100 Germans are thought to have died in the rubble of the World Trade Center, there is little, if any, thirst for revenge.

Germans are still haunted by the memory of World War II and most are instinctively opposed to their armed forces being used for anything more than national defence.

Flowers outside US embassy in Berlin
The US embassy in Berlin has been a focal point for grief
The peacekeeping missions in the Balkans were the first post-war deployment of German soldiers abroad. The decision to send them was highly controversial, and at one stage threatened to break the government coalition.

The country's most prominent Green, foreign minister Joschka Fischer, is keenly aware of these tensions.

In Frankfurt, his former powerbase, banners denounce war and call instead for political solutions.

"This is a terrible threat," Mr Fischer said in an interview.

Special forces requested

"One will have to reply at different levels. But the essence is political, and the underlying political problems have to be tackled."

But already, speculation about German military involvement is rife.

According to one unconfirmed newspaper report, the United States has asked for support from Germany's special forces unit, the KSK, which has expertise in hostage rescue operations.

One way or another, the "war against terrorism" is likely to be a defining phase both in Germany's relationship with its allies, and in developing the re-unified country's sense of national identity.

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 ON THIS STORY
Otto Scholz, Hamburg Interior Minister
"We arrested one person who worked at the airport"
See also:

13 Sep 01 | Americas
Hijackers 'known' to FBI
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