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Germany to bring back IS fighters' children — report

Rebecca Staudenmaier with dpa, epd
November 23, 2017

The German government wants to bring back the children of German IS members who fought in Syria, according to a report. At least six children — including babies — are currently in detention centers in Iraq.

A fighter with teh Christian Syriac militia burns an IS flag in northern Syria
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Hussein

Diplomats with Germany's Foreign Ministry requested exit permits from the Iraqi government for the children of detained German citizens who are members of the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) group, a newspaper report published on Thursday stated.

Read moreWhat now for German IS brides when they return home?

At least six children are currently with their mothers in interrogation or detention centers in Iraq, according to information gathered by German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcasters NDR and WDR.

The Foreign Ministry justified the decision to bring the children home by citing humanitarian considerations and Germany's duty to protect its citizens. They also argued that the children would be better cared for by their relatives in Germany than in the detention centers.

Read moreGerman IS bride could face death penalty in Iraq

Diplomats were able to visit the mothers and children in detention, where the women asked them to fly their children home, according to the report.

So far, Iraqi authorities have not made a decision on letting the children go back to Germany.

A woman and a small child lie on the floor of a tent in a camp for displaced people on the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq
Over 1,300 women and children who are relatives of IS militants are being kept in a camp outside MosulImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/B. Szlanko

Babies with IS birth certificates

A majority of the minors are young children or babies, the report stated. Four of them are located in Erbil, where one of the detained German women is pregnant.

The women were arrested after security forces reclaimed the territories IS once called its caliphate.

Read moreGermany, EU talk tough on returning IS fighters

The children were either brought to Syria by their mothers after they pledged allegiance to IS or they were born in the conflict zone.

Children who were born in areas of Syria that were previously overtaken by IS fighters were only issued an IS birth certificate. Since their mothers are German, they qualify for German citizenship.

Out of the estimated 940 people from Germany who traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight for IS, two-thirds of them are believed to hold German citizenship.

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Possible risks

The ministry also discussed possible security concerns should the children be repatriated.

Security agencies were not concerned about the babies or very young children as they are traumatized but not radicalized, the Süddeutsche report said. However, they do have concern regarding the older children.

Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, has said that the children of IS fighters who return pose a possible danger to German society as they have been "socialized and accordingly indoctrinated" in Islamist ideologies.

"This could create a new generation of jihadists here," Süddeutsche Zeitung quotes Maassen as saying.

Read moreGermany's domestic intelligence agency warns of 'IS' sympathizers

The report did not state the exact ages of the children in question, but said that a majority were young.