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German prosecutors charge two Syrians for Ahrar al-Sham membership

German prosecutors have charged two Syrian men with membership of the hard-line Syrian rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham. Separately, a 17-year-old Afghan was charged with Taliban membership.

Two Syrian men have been charged with membership of a terrorist organization for joining the hard-line Syrian rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham, German prosecutors said on Friday.

The 24-year-old "Kamel T." and 22-year-old "Azad R." can not be named under German law until they have been sentenced in court. They are accused of fighting with Ahrar al-Sham against the Syrian government and other rebel factions from August 2013 until April 2014.

Both men have been in custody since their April arrest.

After the younger suspect was wounded in clashes near Aleppo, the two traveled together to Turkey and then onto Germany in 2015 for medical treatment.

Salafist militant group

Ahrar al-Sham is an ultra-conservative Salafist militant group and one of the most powerful rebel factions in Syria with between 15,000 and 20,000 fighters. 

Syrien Rebellen Provinz Idlib (Reuters/M. Bayoush)

Ahrar al-Sham rebels prepare to fire in Idlib

Its goal is to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad and install an Islamic state in Syria. Unlike other jihadist factions, the group's goals are limited to Syria and its fighters are predominately Syrians.

Ahrar al-Sham fights against the self-declared "Islamic State" (IS) but cooperates with some other rebel factions including Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (Fatah al-Sham), formerly known as the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra.

However, it is not listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union or the United Nations. Russia and Syria have demanded it be labeled a terrorist organization, but the West views the group as critical to a political solution although the US, EU and UN have called for the group to distance itself from al-Qaeda.

Ahrar al-Sham is backed by Turkey and the Arab Gulf states.

Taliban membership

Also on Friday, German prosecutors said they had arrested a 17-year-old Afghan citizen in Germany for membership of the Taliban.

Afghanistan Taliban Kämpfer in der Provinz Zabul (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Khan)

Taliban suicide bombers in Zabul province, Afghanistan

According to investigators, "Abdullah S.K." is suspected of receiving weapons-training from the Taliban and participating in armed attacks on Afghan government forces between 2013 and 2015.

Prosecutors did not say how or when the accused arrived in Germany.

cw/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)

 

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