The Third Generation German Jihad Colonies Sprout Up in Waziristan
Part 3: From Pothead to Mujahedeen
The videos from the combat zone may seem bizarre, but they are effective. They lure men like Michael W. from Hamburg, an ethnic German born in Kazakhstan, who headed off in March 2009. Traveling with a friend, he flew with Qatar Airways from Vienna to Doha. When the two men checked in that morning in Vienna, Austrian officials asked them questions such as where they intended to travel and what they planned to do in Pakistan.
Take a vacation, said one.
Do business with carpets, said the other.
Police discovered that Michael W. was carrying two notes that smacked of neither vacationing nor the carpet trade.
One of them bore the headline "Rules of Conduct for the Jihad" and focused on highly practical issues. "Remain calm during battle. Do not scream," was one of the guidelines. "Do not punish with fire" and "no mutilating corpses," were two other bits of advice. The second piece of paper was a letter of recommendation from someone called "Ibrahim, the Lebanese from Hamburg," apparently to grant the holder access to a training camp. In addition, both men had laptops and mobile phones in their original packaging. The Austrians allowed them to pass, and they traveled via Doha to Karachi in Pakistan. There they were arrested because they were apparently traveling under false pretenses. Later, they were deported to Germany.
Michael W. is now 24 years old. He usually wears long, light-colored garments, has a big flowing beard and smiles a great deal. The police have identified him as a "dangerous element" and federal prosecutors are investigating his activities. He is seen as one of the new enemies of the state. It is likely that he was introduced to the scene by a fellow high school student in his graduating class of 2006.
In Hamburg there is a group of young believers who have been meeting since the summer of 2008, and it reportedly includes Michael W. The leader of the group has slipped past the border controls and is now in Waziristan -- a former pothead who has become a mujahedeen. Those who have been left behind meet every Friday in the former Quds Mosque on Hamburg's Steindamm street -- the very same house of worship once frequented by Mohammed Atta, and now called the Taiba Mosque. During religious services, Michael W. sits extremely close to the low wooden pedestal where the prayer leader stands.
Isolation, Deprivation and Suffering
It's possible that Michael W. should be thankful to the Pakistani border authorities. They may have saved his life. Reports currently arriving from the Hindu Kush in Hamburg, Berlin and elsewhere sound like a far cry from paradise -- and more like war and death. They paint a picture of life in isolation, full of deprivation and suffering.
Ever since the Pakistani army launched an offensive last fall and advanced on Waziristan, the Islamist groups have had to fear for their existence. "The kuffar are attacking us with all their might," one report from the combat zone states. There are also Germans among the heavily wounded. Relatives back home in Germany are now afraid that their children will be killed by the bullets of the Pakistani army -- or by a US drone attack.
Ever since he left Germany, Jan's parents have been asking themselves if their son is actually capable of fighting. On the one hand, his father says, Jan has never been violent. The father says he once asked him directly about it, and his son replied: "I'm not crazy." On the other hand, he recalls that they once went to see the combat-filled film "300," and Jan said how great it must be to have something worth fighting for.
And then there's that last will and testament. It was written by Omar H., one of Jan's acquaintances from Berlin. He slipped off the radar in late January together with his 16-year-old girlfriend Stefanie, who now calls herself "Amina". They are probably on their way to the German colony -- to the others from Berlin.
"I want to be buried in a Muslim cemetery. Care should be taken to ensure that no non-believer (including Jews and Christians) is buried near my grave," Omar decreed in his testament with his rounded, flawless schoolboy handwriting. "When I die, I would like to be washed according to Islamic rites by my wife Amina along with the helpers of her choice, then wrapped and buried. This is my wish unless Allah, in his mercy, honors me with a martyr's death."
* Editor's note: Name has been changed by the editors.
Translated from the German by Paul Cohen
- 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