The German government long shied away from bringing German Islamic State fighters and their families back from Syria. But with the Turkish invasion of northern Syria, that hesitancy is coming back to haunt Berlin.
October 22, 2019 04:59 PM
They got away. For months, the women and children were locked up in the Ayn Issa camp, located around 45 kilometers from the border with Turkey. But now, the internment facility has been dissolved and hundreds of followers of the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) are free, including at least four women from Germany and their children.
“Bombs are falling constantly,” wrote one of the German IS women via WhatsApp shortly before the Kurds abandoned their post. Now, they are allegedly planning on making their way across the border into Turkey and from there back home to Germany.
Another Islamist woman claimed to have made it with her daughter to a small village near the border. They, too, want to return to their home in the German state of Hesse.
Whereas the families of the German IS woman are looking forward to the return of their daughters and grandchildren, it is a nightmare come true for security officials. The Turkish military invasion in northern Syria has led to a situation where control may soon be completely lost over the thousands of IS fighters who had been held by the Kurds in camps and prisons in northern Syria.
In Berlin, concerns are growing that following the release of the women, the men might be next — and that they could be able to find their way into Europe undetected. Security officials fear that some of them may bring along intentions of carrying out an attack.
Indeed, Berlin is now paying the price for having been so hesitant for so long. For almost two years, both the Kurds and their erstwhile American protectors urged Germany and other EU member states to take back the IS followers from their countries. The Foreign Ministry in Berlin consistently used as an excuse the fact that due to the ongoing civil war in Syria, Germany no longer had a consulate general in the country. But that didn’t seem to stop other countries — such as Kazakhstan and Kosovo — from taking their IS followers back.
The End of a Political Career
In truth, nobody in Berlin was willing to take the risk. Flying IS supporters back to Germany would have been extremely politically sensitive. And if even one of those who returned were to carry out an attack, it would likely mean the end of a political career or two.
Senior government officials are now realizing that it was a mistake to play for time. The current situation is pure chaos, with unpredictable consequences for the security situation both in the region and in Germany. Indeed, given the chaos in Syria, Islamic State could be ripe for a comeback. The leader of the group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who remains in hiding, has called on his followers to help free others from prison.