A third of the 950 Germans who have traveled to fight in Syria have returned, and Hans-Georg Maassen, Germany’s domestic intelligence chief, warned on Sunday that these family members “identify deeply” with jihadism.
In an interview with the Deutsche Presse Agentur (dpa) news agency, the head of Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) said it was crucial to have security procedures ready even though there has not been a major wave of returnees.
“There are children who have been brainwashed and highly radicalized at ‘schools’ in ISIS-held areas,” Maassen said. “It’s a problem for us because many of these kids and teenagers can sometimes be dangerous.
Many women “had become so radicalized and identify so deeply with ISIS-ideology that, by all accounts, they must also be identified as jihadis,” he said.
The German media reported last week that the government was exploring plans to repatriate the children of German ISIS fighters, as it estimates that around 700 radical Islamists live in Germany, all prepared to carry out a terrorist attack.
According to Maassen several are women, although he could not provide a specific number.
Some 950 German jihadi-sympathizers have traveled to the Middle East to fight on behalf of the militant group, and around 20 percent of them are female, but many sympathisers have remained in Germany.
“They are saying: ‘You don’t have to travel to Syria and Iraq to fight. You can carry out jihad at home, as well,'” Maassen told dpa. “Therefore, many of those who had already packed their suitcases to travel to these jihadi territories decided to stay at home instead.”
Maassen described ISIS as a “global cyber caliphate”. Such warnings were echoed on Sunday by the president of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office, Holger Münch.
“We have seen in recent years that the so-called Islamic State is very adaptable,” he told German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.
Germany has been struck repeatedly by small-scale terrorist attacks, and its Parliament recently considered a measure to allow the army to be used domestically, but the legislature took no action.