A German Jihad Colony Islamists in Pakistan Recruit Entire Families from Europe

The German government is trying to secure the release of a group of suspected German Islamists who were arrested by Pakistani authorities while making their way to a jihadist colony in the Waziristan region along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Entire families from Germany are moving to the region to join the jihad.
Von Yassin Musharbash und Holger Stark

The young speaker, who calls himself "Abu Adam," praises the stay in the mountains -- almost as if he were shooting an ad for a family holiday camp. "Doesn't it appeal to you? We warmly invite you to join us!" Abu Adam says, raising his index finger. He lists all the things this earthly paradise has to offer: hospitals, doctors, pharmacies as well as a daycare center and school -- all, of course, "a long way from the front." After all, they don't want the children to be woken up by the roar of guns.

The latest recruitment video from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is a half-hour in length and is addressed to our "beloved" brothers and sisters back in Germany. The video is presented by, among others, Mounir Chouka, alias "Abu Adam," who grew up in the western German city of Bonn.

The video shows shacks erected against a backdrop of lush greenery and craggy rock formations. Women wearing blue burqas are seen surrounded by their children. One small girl is holding an artillery gun.

Welcome to the wild world of Waziristan, the region along the Afghan-Pakistani border controlled by Pashtun tribes, al-Qaida and other splinter groups which has become a regular target of US drones and their remote-controlled missiles.

Islamists Recruiting Entire Families

The ad for Waziristan appears to be finding fertile ground in Germany. Security officials here believe the IMU is currently the largest and most active Islamic group recruiting in the country. But there's an unusual development here, too -- militants don't normally recruit women and children as the IMU appears to be doing. The families move to mujahedeen villages in the rough terrain which are used as bases for supporting the battle against the US troops and the Afghan army.

The German government in Berlin is also examining the propaganda offensive. For several weeks, diplomats in the German Foreign Ministry have been negotiating with Islamabad over the fate of a group of suspected Islamists from Germany's Rhineland region who have been held in custody in Pakistan for several months now. The group includes a young Tunisian and six Germans, including Andreas M. of Bonn, a Muslim convert, and his Eritrean wife Kerya.

A Child in Custody

The case is being viewed with concern by the federal government. The married couple's four-year-old daugher has been held in custody together with her parents since May and has suffered particularly in the tough conditions. Germany's Foreign Ministry has made several attempts to negotiate a swift return to Germany for the mother and her daughter at least, but Pakistani authorities have so far refused.

The travelers, who apparently met each other in a Bonn prayer room, left Germany in several small groups in March and April. They traveled through Turkey to the Iranian city of Zahedan. Located close to the border with Pakistan, Zahedan is notorious for its jihad tourism -- hotels even set aside entire room allotments for radical foreigners making their way to the city.

From Zahedan, most take taxis to Pakistan. For the group of Germans, though, that's where the problems started. After crossing the border, the Germans were captured by police and taken to a jail in Peshawar. The prisoners claim they were handled roughly by Pakistani officials. When German consular officials finally got access to the prisoners, several of the men claimed, in mutually corroborating statements, that they had been beaten.

Initially, the detainees claimed they were from Turkey and had lost their identification papers -- leaving authorities with little information to start with. In August, however, the Pakistani ISI intelligence service got involved in the case, moving the prisoners to Islamabad and confirming to the German government that the detainees were Germans. During the first visit by a consular employee from the German Embassy, two of the group's members, identified as Azzedine A. and Bilal Ü., openly admitted that they had wanted to join "the jihad."

Security officials believe that the goal of Mounir Chouka and the IMU was to strengthen the German "colony" in Waziristan. The detainees also include Chouka's brother-in-law, the German-Libyan Ahmed K.

Release Could Be Imminent

"I hope that Ahmed will come home soon," says Ahmed K.'s father Mohamed.

It appears that hope might soon come true. The Pakistani government has signalled that it might not prosecute the group for entering the country illegally or for supporting a terrorist organization and instead put the Germans on a plane back to Frankfurt.

But one of the travelers won't be part of the group if that happens: Atnan J., a Tunisian from the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. In a development similar to that of Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen raised in Germany who was wrongly imprisoned by the United States at Guantanamo, the German Interior Ministry wants to prevent Atnan J. from returning to Germany because his residence permit has expired. Officials in Berlin have asked Islamabad to deport the man to Tunisia.

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, SPIEGEL wrote that the chairman of the Social Democratic Party's local chapter in Bad Breisig, Arnold Joosten, issued an appeal to the German federal government to do all it could to secure the release of the group of suspected terrorists from a Pakistani jail. However, he merely requested information about where a freelance worker for his consulting firm was being held and whether he had been accused of any wrongdoing.

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