Free Syrian Army child fighter 370.
(photo credit: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)
BERLIN – Male and female European Muslim teenagers who adhere to jihadi ideology
have departed from Germany and Norway for Syria to wage war against President
Bashar Assad’s regime.
Second German Television (ZDF) broadcast a report
that adolescents – including a German Muslim as young as 15 – traveled to Syria
to fight against Assad’s regime.
A “German camp” was created in Syria to
recruit Islamists, with an estimated 200 German jihadists involved, some of whom
are in Syria or on their way to the Middle Eastern country, according to German
Burkhard Freier, the head of the domestic intelligence
agency in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told ZDF that the agency
“observed adolescents who departed for Syria in order to fight there.”
added that “we know that the Salafist community has also lured adolescents to
Over 100 Muslims left Germany for Syria this year, said
Freier. In September, roughly two dozen young Muslims traveled from Germany to
Turkey and made it into Syria. The September group contained five adolescents,
including the 15-year-old.
The growing Sunni Salafist movement in Germany
has raised alarm bells among German security and intelligence
Salafists energetically recruit Muslims in the Federal Republic
with videos, books, stands and Internet websites. Salafism adheres to a radical
form of Islam that is antiwomen and anti-Western.
Roughly 75 percent of
the Salafists in Germany are citizens of the Federal Republic, including Germans
who converted to Islam.
German citizenship allows radical Islamists wide
latitude to travel from Europe to the Middle East, particularly to Syria, which
is now the epicenter of jihadi activity.
Freier warned that the security
risk is high when the Islamists return to Germany, largely because they could
“have a concrete assignment” and the intelligence agency does not know what
their plans are.
The Norwegian daily Verdens Gang reported that two
Norwegian female Islamists – a 16-yearold and a 19-year-old (who according to
the British Daily Telegraph were “spotted” near the Syrian border) – wrote in an
email to their family: “Muslims are currently under attack from all fronts and
something needs to be done.
We want to help the Muslims, and the only way
to do so is to be with them in their pains and their joy.”
continued, “It is not enough to stay at home and send money. With this in mind,
we have decided to go to Syria to help by any means.”
intelligence estimates that between 30 and 40 Norwegians have left to fight in
A classified report by the Federal Office for the Protection of
the Constitution (the Shin Bet’s counterpart in Germany) states that Syria is
“by far the most attractive location for jihadists.” At least eight German
jihadists have been killed combating Assad’s regime, according to German
intelligence gathering. The German jihadists come from across Germany, including
Berlin, Bavaria, Hamburg, and the states of Hesse and North
The German news magazine Der Spiegel wrote that the
“71-page document sheds light on the full range of support within Germany’s
Muslim population for the Syrian opposition movement, from humanitarian aid
charities and fund-raisers that have amassed hundreds of thousands of euros to
what intelligence agencies dub “trigger events‚” where imams collect funds for
weapons acquisitions and call on young men to join the jihad.”
Spiegel wrote that radical German Islamists set up media centers in Syria to
recruit fighters on the Internet. With a view toward organizing new recruits for
Syria, the “Shamcenter” website went online in July to promote “social
The Austrian intelligence agency stated that 57 radical Austrian
Islamists are currently in Syria engaged in combat against Assad’s regime.
Roughly half of the Islamists from Austria in Syria have a Chechen origin.