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Germany unable to fly Ebola patients home

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Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: DPA
09:46 CEST+02:00
Germany’s defence ministry has admitted it will be unable to fly home its soldiers battling Ebola in Africa if they get infected with the lethal disease because of a lack of transport planes - breaking a promise to its troops.

Defence minister Ursula von der Leyen previously promised a swift flight home for any infected soldiers when she announced Germany’s support for the battle against Ebola in September.

“In an emergency you can rest assured that you will be brought back to Germany and treated in Germany," she said. Around 5,000 soldiers volunteered for the Ebola Task Force to West Africa after the appeal.

But in a three-page report for the German Parliament seen by Spiegel Online, von der Leyen’s state secretary Markus Grübel admits the Bundeswehr “did not have its own means by which Ebola patients could be transported”.

Instead cases would have to be treated “locally” in West Africa.

Germany's military does not have a medical plane with an isolation unit which could be used to fly patients back.

The Bundeswehr’s Ebola Task Force got off to a shaky start when one of its transport planes destined for West Africa forced to make an unscheduled stop in Gran Canaria before being flown back to Germany.

No troops have arrived in the region yet, but the military has flown two planes to West Africa to help with transport and is supporting the German Red Cross to set up a field hospital.

The case has thrown into light once again the huge gap between von der Leyen’s great ambitions for the German military and its poor state of readiness.

Its dilapidated fleet of 50-year-old Transall transport planes in particular have caused the Bundeswehr severe headaches over the past few weeks, delaying missions to Iraq and West Africa and affecting its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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According to a report to the parliament’s defence committee in September, just 24 of the 56 Transall C-160 cargo planes are able to fly. 

SEE ALSO: Germany's military feet of clay revealed

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