BERLIN – Germany on Saturday said it would withdraw its two Patriot missile batteries from Turkey early next year, ending its role in a three-year NATO mission to help bolster the country s air defences against threats from Syria s civil war.
The German army, known as the Bundeswehr, said on its website that the mandate for the mission would run out on January 31, 2016, and would not be renewed.
Germany will also call back around 250 soldiers who are currently deployed in southeastern Turkey as part of the mission, the statement said.
“Along with our NATO partners, we have protected the Turkish people from missile attacks from Syria,” Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen was quoted as saying in the statement.
“We are ending this deployment in January 2016,” she said, adding that the main threat in the crisis-wracked region now came from the Islamic State group.
Turkey turned to its NATO allies for help over its troubled frontier after a mortar bomb fired from Syrian territory killed five Turkish civilians in the border town of Akcakale in 2012.
The United States, the Netherlands and Germany each sent Patriot missile batteries in response. Germany s Patriot missile system is based in the Turkish town of Kahramanmaras, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the Syrian border.
Originally used as an anti-aircraft missile, Patriots today are used to defend airspace by detecting and destroying incoming missiles. NATO deployed Patriot missiles in Turkey during the 1991 Gulf war and in 2003 during the Iraqi conflict.