German girl, 16, suspected of joining ISIS found in Iraq

FRANKFURT • A German teenager missing for more than a year, who was believed to have converted to Islam and run away to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has been found in Iraq, a state prosecutor said.

The girl, identified only as Linda W., 16, in keeping with German privacy laws, is being cared for by employees of the German consulate in Iraq and appears to be in good physical condition, said prosecutor Lorenz Haase.

"But even if she is physically OK, we don't know how she is doing psychologically, especially because we don't know what she may have done in the past year."

Mr Haase's office plans to reopen an investigation that was begun after she was reported to have run away from her home in the town of Pulsnitz last summer.

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The inquiry, based on suspicion that she was supporting a terrorist organisation or plotting an attack against a foreign state, was closed after they failed to identify her whereabouts, he said.

"We don't know what she did in the year that she was away, whom she met, whether she took part in any fighting or other criminal acts," Mr Haase said. It was not clear whether she would return to Germany, as the Iraqi authorities may want to put her on trial there, he said.

The Associated Press, citing Iraqi intelligence sources, reported that the teenager had been working with the ISIS police department and was apprehended this month in the basement of a home in Mosul's Old City.

The Iraqi officials said that Linda W. was one of 26 foreigners arrested in Mosul since the retreat of the extremists there, and that she had been taken to Baghdad.

The German news media has reported that Linda W. was one of several foreign women found in Mosul after Iraqi forces liberated it this month after nine months of a bloody campaign.

The mayor of the teenager's home town, Ms Barbara Luke, told the German news agency DPA last Saturday that the girl's school had been aware of her conversion to Islam in the months before she fled, and the principal had talked to her parents about it.

"It was very surprising, though, that the girl has been radicalised in such a way," Ms Luke said.

More than 930 people have left Germany to fight alongside ISIS, German intelligence officials say. They believe young women and girls make up 20 per cent of those who have left, with many recruited over social media.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'German girl, 16, suspected of joining ISIS found in Iraq'. Print Edition | Subscribe