German girl arrested in Iraq is missing Linda Wenzel, say authorities

Teenager who disappeared last year is believed to have been fighting for Islamic State

Linda Wenzel: the missing German teenager is thought to have converted to Islam after being groomed on social media. Photograph: @VianDakhil

Linda Wenzel: the missing German teenager is thought to have converted to Islam after being groomed on social media. Photograph: @VianDakhil

 

A German girl who was believed to have been fighting for Islamic State in Iraq when she was arrested last week is the missing 16-year-old Linda Wenzel, German authorities have confirmed.

Wenzel’s parents had been searching for their daughter since she disappeared from her home in the village of Pulsnitz, near Dresden, in July last year. She is thought to have converted to Islam after being groomed on social media.

Wenzel, whom German authorities named only as Linda W, is receiving consular assistance from the German embassy in Iraq. Lorenz Haase, a prosecutor in Dresden, would not confirm reports that the teenager had been fighting for Isis in Mosul.

“Our information ends with the girl’s arrival in Istanbul about a year ago,” he said.

Iraqi officials this week said they had arrested a foreign woman they believed was German, who had been recruited by an Arab Isis member through social media. They did not identify the woman as Wenzel.

Arrested by Iraqi forces, she was part of a group of 20 women Isis supporters from Russia, Turkey, Canada, Libya and Syria who had barricaded themselves with guns and explosives in a tunnel underneath the ruins of Mosul’s old city.

Video released last weekend showed images of a disheveled and dust-covered girl who appeared to match Wenzel’s description. But there were contradicting reports about her identity, as some said it was Wenzel while others identified her as either a Chechen Isis fighter or a Yazidi girl.

Plane tickets to Istanbul

Wenzel had been missing since July 1st, 2016, when she failed to return home after telling her parents she was spending the weekend at a friend’s house. Hidden under the mattress in her room, police said, were receipts for two plane tickets, from Dresden to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Istanbul.

Earlier in the year she had told her parents of her growing interest in Islam, but she hid the fact that she had converted to the religion. During Ramadan she told the family she was on a diet. “We didn’t think anything of it, and even bought her a copy of the Koran,” her mother, Katharina, said.

Investigators discovered a prayer rug, a tablet with hundreds of photographs and the login for a Facebook account that Linda had used.

Hundreds of Germans, including several girls and young women, have in recent years left the country to join Isis in Syria and Iraq. Some have been killed in battle and suicide bombings, and others have returned to Germany, but there are many who remain unaccounted for, according to security officials.

Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that another four German women who joined Isis in recent years were being held in an Iraqi prison and had been visited by diplomats. They could face the death penalty in Iraq for belonging to the militant group,it said.

Germany’s foreign ministry declined to comment on the report.

Der Spiegel said one of the Germans had Moroccan roots and another apparently came from Chechnya but had a German passport.

© Guardian and agencies