The ‘German Camp’: Jihadists from Germany Set up Base in Syria
SYRIA IN CONTEXT, 28 Oct 2013
A growing number of German jihadists are heading to Syria to join the rebels in their fight against President Bashar Assad. According to German intelligence, some 200 Islamists from across the country have gathered in northern Syria in what’s been dubbed the “German Camp.”
German intelligence has observed a sharp increase in the number of German Islamists traveling to Syria to aid the opposition in the civil war there. With some 200 Islamic fundamentalists from Germany either on their way to Syria or already there, the war-torn country is currently “by far the most attractive location for jihadists,” says a classified report by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) that has been seen by SPIEGEL.
The 71-page document sheds light on the full-range of support within Germany’s Muslim population for the Syrian opposition movement, from humanitarian aid charities and fundraisers that have amassed hundreds of thousands of euros to what intelligence agencies dub “trigger events,” where imams collect funds for weapons acquisitions and call on young men to join the jihad.
Some are heeding the call. But with anti-Assad militias tending to recruit German volunteers for suicide missions, mainly because they lack combat experience and cannot speak Arabic, German intelligence agencies have noted that German jihadists are increasingly keeping to themselves.
A “German Camp” has been set up in northern Syria and now serves as a collection point and possibly also a training center for German-speaking fighters. The majority of these young men come from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to one third of Germany’s Muslim population, but others come from the states of Hesse, Berlin, Bavaria and Hamburg. Over half of them are thought to have German nationality.
Germany is also concerned by indications that German Islamists are building up media centers in Syria to wage a recruitment campaign on the Internet and with social media.
In late July, the “Shamcenter” website was launched in five languages, including German, to boost what it terms “social jihad.” According to the German intelligence report, such projects could act “as a significant catalyst for radicalization in Germany.”
The trend could also be spurred by veterans trained in battle who return home. The BfV estimates that around a dozen of them are now back in Germany and says they pose a “particular threat.”
Security authorities estimate that around 1,000 volunteer jihadists from across Europe are now in Syria — compared to just 250 in late 2012. Around 90 allegedly come from Britain, 120 from Belgium, 50 from Denmark and approximately 150 from Kosovo. According to their latest statistics, German intelligence agencies believe that eight German jihadists have already died on the frontline in Syria.
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