Europe’s missing Islamic State fighters

It is known, however, that IS fighters have entered Europe undetected by posing as migrants


The German government has lost track of scores of Germans who traveled to Iraq and Syria in recent years to join the Islamic State (IS). The revelation comes amid growing fears that some of these fighters are returning to Germany undetected by authorities.

The German Interior Ministry, in response to a question from the Secretary General of the classical liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), Linda Teuteberg, revealed that German authorities lack information on the whereabouts of at least 160 Germans who left to fight with the IS, according to Welt am Sonntag. The ministry said that while some had probably been killed in combat, others have gone into hiding and may be trying to resettle in Germany.

“In view of the very fragmented protection of the EU’s external borders, it is particularly worrying that the federal government appears to have taken no further measures to prevent the uncontrolled re-entry of underground IS fighters,” Teuteberg told Welt am Sonntag. She added that the government “still has no concept” for dealing with former IS fighters from Germany, including “Germans detained in the war zone as well as the more than 200 former IS supporters who are now back in Germany.”

Teuteberg said that the Interior Ministry should come up with a plan for how to deal with IS returnees and how to hold them accountable, by, for example, strengthening the legal capacity to investigate and prosecute war crimes abroad.

Of the estimated 1,050 Germans who traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight in recent years, approximately one-third (350) have returned to Germany. Another 220 are believed to have been killed on the battlefield. According to government sources cited by the German television program Tagesschau, approximately 120 are being detained in Iraq and Syria. In addition, at least 138 children of German IS fighters are being held Iraq and Syria. The whereabouts of the others are unknown.

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