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German police investigate women found in Iraq

July 18, 2017

German authorities are trying to find out if a 16-year-old who converted to Islam and disappeared from her home near Dresden last year is one of 20 women found in a tunnel in Iraq. She had been under investigation.

Mosul with destroyed buildings
Image: Reuters/A. Konstantinidis

Five German women being held by security forces in Iraq are reportedly part of a group of 20 female fighters with the so-called "Islamic State," (IS) apprehended in Mosul's beleaguered ancient city last week. In addition to the German nationals, the group included three Russian, three Turkish and two Canadian citizens, according to first reports.

However, information from Mosul can not be verified and Iraqi counter-terrorism official, Haidar al-Araji denied there was a 16-year-old in the group. Another report suggested a teenager arrested was
not German but of Slavic origin, possibly Russian. She had been taken to hospital for treatment to burns.

The young woman was initially taken to be a member of the Yazidi community as she spoke no Arabic.

Al-Araji claimed all of the twenty were "suicidal women who were on standby to blow themselves up among Iraqi forces."

The German foreign ministry is working to establish the nationality of the women detained in Mosul. Anyone with a German passport is to be offered consular assistance.

Found in a tunnel

The group was found last Thursday in a tunnel under Mosul's Old City in possession of weapons and explosive belts, according to Iraqi security forces. Iraqi official Al-Araji said they had come into Iraq through al-Raqqa province in northern Syria.

He said some women worked as police for IS occupiers of the city until they were driven out by the Iraqi military offensive which began last October. Although clashes continue in parts of the Old City, Iraqi forces last week declared victory over IS

The women's role had been to control Iraqi women who violated Islamic law, al-Araji said. "There were more of them, but some blew themselves up already," he added.

German reports

Authorities in Saxony's capital Dresden are currently trying to determine if this is the teenager who they were investigating last year for alleged contacts with IS about preparation for a possible act of terrorism. If it is, then criminal proceedings would be re-opened.

Lorenz Haase, a senior prosecutor in Dresden, said there was "new evidence" on her case "that is being reviewed." He added that the investigation would be reopened when the teen "reappears and is conclusively

The teenager reportedly converted to Islam which she was living at home near Dresden last year. She was in contact with members of the IS group via an online chat forum before she disappeared last summer.

Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency estimates 930 people have left Germany in recent years to join IS in Iraq and Syria. About 20 percent of them are women. 

IS losing grip on power

Many locals fear that the recent liberation of Mosul could leave the city with a power vacuum, as the anti-IS alliance turns its attention to the liberation of Raqqa in neighboring Syria.

With allegations of violations of international law mounting in the aftermath of the liberation of Mosul, it is unclear how they will be legally processed.

Victory in Mosul - Aram Shakaram from Save the Children speaks with DW

jm/rt (dpa, AP, Reuters, Die Welt)