Prosecutors say two former German soldiers were arrested on suspicion of attempting to organise a terrorist mercenary squad to fight in Yemen’s civil war.
Following police operations in southern Germany on Wednesday, Arend-Adolf G and Achim A face terrorism charges.
They allegedly planned to assemble a private army of up to 150 men made up of retired police officers and soldiers.
Prosecutors said they sought to sell their services to Saudi Arabia’s government for illegal missions in Yemen.
Since 2014, Yemen has been engulfed in a civil conflict between the internationally recognised government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia, and the armed Houthi movement.
Saudi Arabia entered the civil war in 2015, shortly after the Houthis, who are backed by Iran, took control of the capital, Sanaa.
According to German prosecutors, the accused former soldiers wanted Saudi Arabia to fund their private activities in Yemen. The men attempted to contact Saudi Arabian government agencies but received no response and were unsuccessful in their efforts.
Federal prosecutors laid forth comprehensive and serious allegations against the two “ringleaders,” both of whom had “military expertise and skills,” in a statement.
Prosecutors claim that at the start of 2021, Arend-Adolf G and Achim A planned to form a mercenary group under their sole leadership. Prosecutors stated they planned to pay each member of their unit a monthly wage of around €40,000 (£33,700; $46,400).
At least seven people were allegedly recruited by Arend-Adolf G.
The mercenary group was expected to strike and take territories held by the Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to Germany’s Spiegel magazine, which first reported the arrests.
According to prosecutors, Arend-Adolf G and Achim A “anticipated civilians to be killed and injured in connection with conflict” in Yemen.
Prosecutors believe the accused soldiers also sought to promote their military service in order to be deployed in other battles.
According to authorities, the investigators were led to the individuals by a tip from Germany’s Military Counter-Intelligence Service (MAD).
One of the suspects was apprehended near Munich, while the other was apprehended in the Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald district of Germany’s southwest. Their Bavarian and Baden-Württemberg homes were searched.
On Wednesday, the former soldiers are scheduled to appear in court for a hearing on pre-trial detention.