The Third Generation: German Jihad Colonies Sprout Up in Waziristan
Part 2: 'It's Shocking How Quickly Your Own Child Can Slip Away from You'
Agencies such as the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, and the BKA are particularly worried about the speed at which these young men and women are prepared to leave their lives in Germany, usually burning their bridges behind them. Occasionally, as in the case of Jan and his wife, it takes only a few months before they become unreachable -- first in terms of their willingness to listen to opposing points of view, then in a very literal sense.
Jan's parents, who came to Berlin from Eastern Europe 20 years ago, noticed the first change in May 2008, when their only son suddenly refused to eat pork. He told his mother earlier that he had purchased a copy of the Koran.
His parents weren't concerned because Jan had completed high school and planned to become a career soldier. He also had his girlfriend Alexandra, who was two years younger than him. The two young people wanted to get married. It looked like the makings of a picture-book life: peaceful, happy and unspectacular.
The wedding was in September 2008 -- a beautiful ceremony, held in the middle of the religious fasting month of Ramadan. They didn't eat until after sunset, but there was music and the bride was dressed entirely in white, just as she had wanted. In November, the couple married again -- this time in a Muslim ceremony -- and after that everything went very quickly. By March 2009, the parents only saw their daughter-in-law wearing a full veil. And the number of conflicts started increasing.
Jan tried to convert his father to Islam. His father accompanied him to the mosque to see who his son was meeting with. Jan even tried to convert his elderly grandmother, who is a fervently pious Catholic.
He decided to drop his original career plan of becoming a professional soldier, preferably stationed abroad. Jan told his parents that he otherwise might be forced to fight against his fellow believers. He also dropped out of vocational school.
By early 2009 the young couple mentioned for the first time that they would rather practice their faith undisturbed by distractions, in a country where this was still possible -- in Yemen, for example, Somalia or Pakistan, far away from the big cities. Last autumn, Jan and Alexandra started to secretly auction off their possessions on eBay. The process of radicalization had taken little over a year. "It's shocking how quickly your own child can slip away from you," says Jan's mother, who is now seeking contact with other families who have had similar experiences. "Hardly anyone else can understand our situation," she says.
German officials believe that Jan can be seen in a video made by a relatively new group that calls itself the "German Taliban Mujahedeen". Up until now, they have drawn attention to themselves with noisy propaganda -- in a video released last fall that threatened to take the war to German cities, for example. This message was illustrated with images of the Brandenburg Gate and the main railway station in Hamburg. The man who appears to be responsible for the propaganda is Ahmet M., 32, who has apparently become something of a media services provider for a segment of the German colony.
Ahmet goes by the name of "Saladin" on the Internet, and every few weeks his "Elif Medya" label issues a new propaganda film aimed at luring new volunteers to Afghanistan. The muddled messages of German Islamist Eric Breininger from the milieu of the Sauerland Cell carry this same trademark, as do the communiqués of the "German Taliban."
Saladin's specialization with recruits from Germany can be explained by his personal history. He was born in the northern town of Salzgitter and his last German place of residence was in the state of Saarland. He ran afoul of the law in Germany at an early age and was caught stealing for the first time at 15. Later, he was convicted of dealing hash and cocaine, sentenced to three years in prison and deported to Turkey in April 2000.
German investigators believe that Ahmet M. alias Saladin is a key recruiter on the German-speaking scene. Only a few weeks ago, he personally tried to direct a willing recruit all the way from Germany to the Hindu Kush, but the German police intercepted the Berliner en route.
Ahmet M. boasts that he has served as the spokesman for the Islamic Jihad Union over the past few years, but he says "now I work for the Taliban." The German-Turk is thought to act as a link between the young new recruits and the front. During the month of Ramadan, he collected donations on German online forums to purchase "basic foodstuffs for the widows and orphans" and the wounded on the jihad battlefields of Afghanistan.
- Part 1: German Jihad Colonies Sprout Up in Waziristan
- Part 2: 'It's Shocking How Quickly Your Own Child Can Slip Away from You'
- Part 3: From Pothead to Mujahedeen
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