September 13, 2016 / 3:34 PM / 3 years ago

Germany to send up to 650 troops to NATO mission in Mediterranean: Der Spiegel

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany plans to send up to 650 troops to join a new NATO mission to counter human trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea and combat arms smuggling by the Islamic State militant group, news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Tuesday.

The ruling coalition aims to present a plan to parliament for approval shortly, the magazine said. It would call for the German involvement in NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian to last until December 2017.

The deployment is part of a broader shift by Germany to expand its military role in Europe and NATO. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has sought to rebuild the equipment and troop levels of the armed forces after years of declines.

Der Spiegel said she and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told parliamentary leaders in a letter that “terrorist organizations can act unimpeded” because of the lack of government controls along the Mediterranean coast by countries such as Libya. This presented “significant threats to our security”.

The foreign and defense ministries had no immediate comment.

NATO members agreed to launch the new maritime mission at a summit in Poland in July. German ships are also participating in a European Union military mission called Sophia to try to combat the smuggling of weapons and people off the Libyan coast.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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