German TV: European jihadist teenagers fighting in Syria

German intelligence head: Over 100 Muslims left Germany for Syria this year.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
October 23, 2013 06:50
3 minute read.
A 14-year-old fighter with the Free Syrian Army chats with his fellow fighters in Deir al-Zor.

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.

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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 intelligence.

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.”

He added that “we know that the Salafist community has also lured adolescents to radicalize them.”

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 experts.

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.”

They 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.”

Norwegian intelligence estimates that between 30 and 40 Norwegians have left to fight in Syria.

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 Rhine-Westphalia.

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.”

Der 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 jihad.”

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.


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