A video of a 16-year-old German schoolgirl, who ran away from home to join ISIS as a jihadi bride, has emerged online, showing her capture by Iraqi forces in the city of Mosul.
The 16-year old Linda Wenzel, a German citizen, was found about three weeks ago in a tunnel under Mosul’s Old City along with 20 other women who joined ISIS fighters about three weeks ago. Four other women were also from Germany, with others reported to have come from Canada, Chechnya, Russia, and Turkey, according to The Times. Reports also said that Wenzel had a malnourished baby with her, although it has not been confirmed whether the child is hers.
The shocking video footage shows Iraqi soldiers celebrating as they escorted Wenzel through cheering crowds on what is being called the “walk of shame.”
It appears Wenzel was radicalized in Germany. Wenzel’s friends said that around the time of her disappearance, she would wear a hijab at school and carried a copy of the Koran. She was also struggling with her parents’ recent divorce.
In July 2016, Wenzel told her mother she was spending the weekend with a friend. Instead, she left the country to marry a Chechen fighter who had been grooming her online. Wenzel used her mother’s bank information to buy a ticket and fly from Frankfurt to Istanbul, where she was smuggled into Iraq to marry the online recruiter. He was later killed in battle.
“I am devastated by the fact that she was apparently completely brainwashed and persuaded to leave the country by someone, and that she managed to hide it from me,” mother Katharina Wenzel said last year, according to The Times.
Following her capture by Iraqi forces, in an interview with German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung Wenzel said, “I just want to go back home to my family. I want to get away from the war, away from all the weapons, away from the noise.”
Although the German consulate is working hard to get Wenzel home, she remains in custody in Baghdad where she is being questioned by American and Iraqi interrogators over her affiliations.
An unnamed officer in the Iraqi counter-terrorism unit told The Telegraph that Wenzel was a sniper for ISIS, perhaps pressured into it by her husband.
Under Iraq’s counter-terrorism laws, Wenzel may face the death penalty if found guilty of fighting for ISIS. But she may be released as a minor and a foreigner.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said that while the country is obliged to provide assistance, “we have to ensure that no threat is posed by the four after a possible return to Germany,” reported AP.
A local man from her hometown Pulsnitz in East Germany told RT, “If you look at the case of Linda, it’s clear that young people in our country are not capable of defending themselves against extremist ideology, because of a lack of identity and education. This has lead to a situation where a 15-year-old girl is ready to fight in a so-called holy war.”
Wenzel is just one of hundreds of Germans who have willingly left their families to become jihadi brides.
What fascinates German women to sacrifice their lives for the Jihadist cause? Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz (BfV), stated in its 2016 annual report that Islamist organisations propagate a world view of anti-Semitic victimization that appears to successfully attract sympathisers on a global scale. “Jews are considered the masterminds of a worldwide conspiracy and held responsible for a variety of evils and injustices.”
The report warned that “young people are particularly susceptible to jihadist propaganda, especially spread via social media,” where Jihadi brides are referred to as “the pearls of Islam,” reported German newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine.
Women are also exposed to Jihadist propaganda through online ISIS media channels like At-Tibyan Publications, which spreads the message that there is a place for all in Islam:”My dear sister, truly, you have an important and great part. And you have to rise up and fulfill your duty role in Islam in the confrontation of the new crusade, led by all countries of the world against Islam and the Muslims … Listen,” according to Augsburger Allgemeine.
BfV reported that 890 individuals travelled towards Syria/Iraq from Germany in 2016 alone to participate or support ISIS activities.