By Luis Arellano
The final territory held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was captured by Syrian Democratic Forces in 2019. Yet, an alarming number of those who fought for the terrorist state have settled in Germany.
Last year German authorities admitted that over a third of those who went to Syria to fight for ISIL have returned. This is coupled with the fact that scores more have potentially infiltrated Europe posing as refugees.
A recent report from the French television Channel M6 titled ‘Daesh Hunters: The Great Hunt’ suggests that many former members of ‘Daesh’ as the terrorist group are also known to have taken quiet lives in Germany. There are fears that at least some members of these groups could launch new attacks if not in Germany than elsewhere in Europe or overseas. The documentarians worry that Germany is becoming a new potential hub-for international terrorists and experts say Germany could do more to look into recent refugees’ background.
The documentary makes a note of the 2016 attack on a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin in which Daesh later claimed responsibility. Tunisian Anis Amri killed twelve people and wounded more than 50 others of various nationalities in an attack launched with a stolen truck.
German police were reportedly informed of the attack in advance by Moroccan investigators but failed to respond in a timely manner to the shared intelligence for reasons that are uncertain.
What is certain, the report makes clear is that a large number of former terrorists are now living in Germany.
“Majid” who was involved in the Ministry of Finance for the proto-state, today lives in north-western Germany where he owns a health spa and several luxury vehicles. The report alleges his business holdings were funded by money transferred from Turkey as part of illicitly gained funds of ISIS leaders. “Samir”, another terrorist profiled in the show, joined the terrorist group in 2014 and distinguished himself by taking his victim’s heads as trophies. “Samir” is also believed to now reside in Germany.
Last April, German authorities arrested four suspected members of an ISIL cell operating in the North Rhine-Westphalia of Germany. They had been active by ISIL leaders in Syria and Afghanistan to carry out attacks on US military bases, American citizens, and other targets in Germany.
While so-called returnees have yet to carry out active attacks in Germany, they have been arrested for their involvement in terrorist plots, and more may soon return. Hundreds of German foreign fighters still remain in Iraq and Syria. Furthermore, roughly 200 German citizens are imprisoned by Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.
Some of these issues in Germany’s response to counter-terrorism as revealed by Channel M6 titled, and others predate the establishment of ISIL. Within Germany, the emerging threat of far-right terrorism has lead to some concerns that government authorities will deprioritize terrorist groups from the Middle East in their operations. Yet, history suggests that would be a grave mistake—two of the hijackers responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States.