German authorities said as many as 249 people may have left the country to fight "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria and Iraq. The statement came in response to questions from Left party politicians in parliament.
In response to a parliamentary questionnaire submitted by the Left party, German security authorities have said they know of 124 people who have returned to Germany after fighting in Syria and Iraq .
They were part of at least 249 people to have traveled from Germany to both countries to fight against the terrorist group "Islamic State" (IS). Twenty-one of of those who embarked on the journey since 2013 were killed.
According to Germany's Interior Ministry, the people in question are German, Turkish, Turkish-German and Syrian citizens. The ministry noted that it had no information, however, about individuals who may have joined the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq.
Investigating terrorist links
Ulla Jelpke, one of the Left party politicians who submitted the questionnaire, was highly critical of government investigations into alleged linked between those who had returned and terrorist organizations.
She recently vented that criticism to the German newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung: "The fact that IS has been pushed back is thanks, in great part, to Kurdish YPG ground troops and their volunteer supporters. To investigate them for being members of a terrorist organization upon return is just grotesque."
Turkey, a German ally, accuses the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria of being allied with the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey, a group both countries label as a terrorist organization.
Germany's Federal Criminal Office (BKA) has said it is aware of 32 such cases in which it is investigating people who have returned from the area. In 27 of those cases, authorities are looking into links with terrorist organizations.
The BKA added that 16 of the investigations have been dropped and two of the individuals under investigation are considered threats to public safety.