Capture of underage female IS-supporter in Mosul shows extent the group’s appeal

 

As the so-called Islamic State’s last bastions in Mosul fell, Iraqi soldiers and militias captured a host of IS-fighters. Amongst them were a larger number of foreigners who had joined the terrorist group over the preceding years.

Trip to the Levant in 2016

Yet few arrests have called forth more international attention than the case of Linda Wenzel, a 16-year-old girl from a small town in Saxony, Germany. She was discovered by Iraqi forces in a tunnel along with 20 other female IS-supporters, three of whom were also German.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/islamischer-staat-vermisste-jaehrige-aus-sachsen-im-irak-aufgegriffen-1.3599355 ))

The teenager had left her home in 2016 and had been missing since then. Her turn towards jihadism had occurred unbeknownst to her parents and her family. According to investigators, online conversations with IS-sympathisers were key in swaying the girl to travel to the Levantine battlefields via Frankfurt and Istanbul.((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/islamischer-staat-die-dschihad-braut-aus-pulsnitz-a-1159114.html ))

“Jihadi bride”

Her precise role within IS remains unclear. Iraqi sources have described her as a sniper; yet given the group’s conservatism in gender matters it seems unlikely that the young woman was allowed to play an active combat role, even if she should have wished to do so.

According to intelligence sources, she was married off to a Chechen IS-fighter; a fact that has led many media outlets to refer to her as a “jihadi bride.”(( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/18/teenage-german-isil-bride-captured-mosuls-old-city/, http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/islamischer-staat-die-dschihad-braut-aus-pulsnitz-a-1159114.html )) This points to the ways in which the IS’s female recruits are seen as even more ‘exotic’ and quintessentially incomprehensible than their male counterparts.

IS’s female members

Yet in contrast to many other jihadist groups, the IS has been extremely adept at attracting female supporters. According to the German domestic intelligence service, the Verfassungsschutz, 20 per cent of Germans who have joined the group are female. And among the minors flocking to the caliphate, 50 per cent are women.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-07/islamischer-staat-linda-w-dresden-is-kaempferin ))

German Islamic studies scholar and counter-terrorism expert Marwan Abou-Taam points to the ways in which the IS has managed to offer an appealing vision to many young women. Many are taken in by the glossy portrayal of jihadi fighters online. Becoming a wife and child-bearer to a fighter provides new sense and meaning, Abou-Taam highlights.((http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-07/islamischer-staat-linda-w-dresden-is-kaempferin ))

Extradition to Germany

Not all women are joining the IS for personal or marital reasons, however: many wish to make a contribution to the creation of the caliphate and are highly ideologically motivated.

Whether this was the case for Linda Wenzel remains to be seen. Personnel from the German Embassy are in touch with her and the other German women arrested in Mosul. It is understood that Germany will seek their extradition. If they remain in Iraq, the women may be facing the death penalty, as marriage to and support of IS-fighters are treated as a capital offence in Iraq.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-07/islamischer-staat-linda-w-dresden-is-kaempferin ))

Challenge of reintegration

In her home town of Pulsnitz in Saxony, public opinion is split on Linda Wenzel’s arrest and her potential return. Some of the town’s inhabitants expressed relief that the girl had been found. They hoped for a speedy reunion with her parents.

Others openly voiced their fears. One of the girl’s former neighbours asserted that “we don’t need her here. At the end of it, she might show up with an explosive belt.”(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/islamischer-staat-die-dschihad-braut-aus-pulsnitz-a-1159114.html ))

This highlights once more how the arrest of the so-called “foreign fighters” that had joined extremist groups in Iraq and Syria is not so much an endpoint as a new start to the problem: the meaningful reintegration of these men, women, and children remains an issue that European governments will have to struggle with for the foreseeable future.

The National Intelligence Center (CNI) orders the expulsion of a Muslim leader

12 May 2013

The National Intelligence Center (CNI) has ordered the expulsion from Spain of the Moroccan and Muslim leader Noureddin Ziani for threat on national security. Ziani is, according to Al Pais, helping the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) in their appeal to the independence of the numerous Islamic communities of Catalonia”. The director of CNI-General Felix Sanz Roldan stated in the order of expulsion that Ziani is “a very important collaborator of a foreign intelligence service since 2000, ” in a clear reference to the General Directorate for Research and Documentation (DGED) of Morocco.Ziani, born in Oujda, has been living for the last 14 years in Barcelona, where he presides the Union of Islamic Cultural Centers in Catalonia (UCCIC), a Muslim partnership who teaches Arabic and distributes aid to families, especially in Ramadan (month of Islamic fasting).

Mohamed Merah and the Secret Services

Spiegel – 03/22/2012

The Spanish intelligence service gave tips to their  French colleagues that Merah allegedly attended a meeting of Salafists in Catalonia in 2011 but somehow that was not enough to trigger further independent investigation by French officials.

Terror Threat Still High in Germany, Intelligence Chief Says

18 February 2011

Despite Germany’s recent easing of anti-terror measures, the head of the country’s domestic intelligence service said in an interview published on Friday that the terror threat is still serious.

“In Germany and abroad there are people who are ready and able to carry out attacks,” said Heinz Fromm, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, or Verfassungsschutz, in an interview with the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel.

He said jihadist groups have not abandoned their agenda, even though the heightened security measures put in place last year had possibly hindered their plans.

Jihad and Families

A research report submitted to the Dutch parliament this week recommended the government counter Islamic radicalization by promoting marriage and family life. The study by the national intelligence service analyzed data on 22 men who were committed to jihad in the past but had since stopped. The service emphasizes the importance of a job and family, as opposed to the effect of “ideological contra-messages,” in countering violent intentions.

It’s “cool” to be charged with terrorism

In the radical Islamic milieu in Denmark being charged with or convicted for terrorism means high status. Two researchers from the Danish Institute for International Studies, PhD fellow Ann-Sophie Hemmingsen and senior researcher Manni Crone have investigated the Danish radical Islamic milieu and their conclusion is that persons who have been charged with terrorism typically follow two paths after they have been in the limelight of the police and the intelligence service. Some try to build a new life outside the radical circles and some enjoy the prestige they gained by being charged or convicted of terrorism. The latter stay in the radical circles and it becomes their identity that they are militant or the ‘vanguards’ of radical Islam in Denmark. Hemmingsen and Crone deem this as worrying because the idolization could motivate some to plan terrorist activities. On the other hand the Swedish researcher Magnus Ranstorp, who is a leading researcher on Islamic radicalization, doesn’t think the possibility of gaining prestige by being radical appeals to people outside the radical milieu but he agrees that the idolization of radical Muslims is worrying.

Growth of Salafism in the Netherlands Slows

The growth of Salafism in the Netherlands has slowed, the intelligence service AIVD told Nos TV on September 8.

A 2007 report by the agency warned of the increasing influence of Salafist imams on Dutch Muslims, not because of a call to violence, but because they prevent the integration of Muslims by rejecting Western society. But now ” the growth [of Salafism] is stagnating. It is not leading to wide circulation, and that was in particular our concern,” says Wil van Gemert, director of interior security in the AIVD.

Van Gemert says the AIVD’s earlier worries were ungrounded. ‘Our biggest fear [was] that there was a broad forum where this growth could take place,’ he said. ‘But our main conclusion is that this forum no longer exists.’ The AIVD cites several reasons for the decreased growth of Salafism: local councils and leaders are more aware of the existence of such centres and are refusing financial support, and the Muslim community is also coming out against the movement.

MI5 blackmails British Muslims

Five Muslim community workers have accused MI5 of waging a campaign of blackmail and harassment in an attempt to recruit them as informants. The men claim they were given a choice of working for the Security Service or face detention and harassment in the UK and overseas. None of the six men, who work with disadvantaged youths at the Kentish Town Community Organisation (KTCO), has ever been arrested for terrorism or a terrorism-related offence.

They have made official complaints to the police, to the body which oversees the work of the Security Service and to their local MP. Now they have decided to speak publicly about their experiences in the hope that publicity will stop similar tactics being used in the future.

Intelligence gathered by informers is crucial to stopping further terror outrages, but the men’s allegations raise concerns about the coercion of young Muslim men by the Security Service and the damage this does to the gathering of information in the future.

Ten people arrested for financing group tied to al-Qaeda – Summary

Agents from the French, German and Dutch anti- terrorism services on Friday arrested 10 Turkish nationals suspected of helping finance a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda. Eight of the suspects were arrested in France by members of French domestic intelligence service DST, French media reported. The raids by DST agents took place in the eastern city of Mulhouse and in the central Rhone region. The suspects are accused of trying to raise funds for a terrorist group in Uzbekistan linked to Osama bin Laden’s global terrorism network. French anti-terrorist forces have been investigating the group for one year. German public broadcaster SWR reported that a 35-year-old Turkish national, who had been sought under a European arrest warrant, was arrested in Weil am Rhein, a German town near the borders with France and Switzerland, within the framework of the French operation.

Islamic Terrorism Biggest Threat to Germany, Minister Says

Islamic terrorism is the greatest threat to the security and stability of Germany, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in Berlin on Thursday, May 15. Germany had been lucky to escape terrorist attacks because of preventive measures taken by the security services, the minister said in presenting the annual report of the nation’s domestic intelligence service. The report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution said Islamist terrorists are increasingly setting their sights on Germany and view the country as an “operational area.” It said Islamists regard Germany as a Crusader nation and also see it as an ally of the United States and Israel — two of the biggest foes of Muslim militants. Germany’s growing military presence in Afghanistan and its involvement in training Iraqi security forces had made it a target for Islamic terrorists, the report said. The document also spoke of a growing climate of anti-Semitism among right-wing extremists in Germany. It said neo-Nazis were making increased use of the Internet and music to reach out to other sections of the population, particularly young people.