The Press

Teen who ran away to be Isis bride captured


IRAQ: A 16-year-old German Islamic State wife, who reportedly joined the jihadist group after being radicalise­d online, has been captured by Iraqi forces in the ruins of Mosul.

Linda Wenzel, from the small town of Pulsnitz, near Dresden, was discovered by troops with a group of 20 other suspected foreign female members of Isis in a tunnel under the Old City.

She is understood to have been handed over to American troops stationed in Iraq for questionin­g.

A soldier in the unit who captured the girl said: ‘‘We found her holding a gun in her hand. We think she was brainwashe­d.‘‘

Linda was reported missing from her home, where she had been living with her mother and stepfather, a year ago.

She grew up in a Protestant family, and had not shown any interest in religion until a few months before her disappeara­nce. She did well at school and was a popular girl with close friends.

In 2016, she told her parents for the first time that she was interested in Islam. ‘‘We didn’t think much about it at the time. We bought her a Koran,’’ her mother told German television.

Friends in Pulsnitz say Linda converted around this time, and was radicalise­d online in chatrooms. She started learning Arabic, taking the Koran to school and wearing conservati­ve clothing, and became fascinated with Islam. She began fasting for Ramadan, but told her parents she was on a diet.

Her elder sister began to suspect she had converted. ’’But I didn’t want to make too much of it. I wanted to be open-minded,’’ she said.

Police believe Linda fell in love with a Muslim man she met online, who persuaded her to move to Syria to join him. She left last July, after telling her parents she wanted to stay the weekend at a friend’s house.

She travelled to Istanbul posing as her mother, and then to Turkey’s border with Syria, where she crossed with the help of an Islamist group aligned with Isis. A rival rebel group in the border area told Germany’s Bild newspaper that it held her for a few days, before members of the proIsis faction arrived to meet her, claiming she ‘‘belonged to them’’.

The jihadists then handed her over to an Isis fighter, believed to be the man who had groomed her over the internet and convinced her to travel to the group’s socalled caliphate.

If her identity is confirmed, Linda could face prosecutio­n in Germany on charges of colluding with terrorists against the state and faces a maximum sentence of three years in a juvenile prison.

Four other German women were also reportedly discovered last week in a tunnel system built by Isis. They were part of a group of 20 female fighters, including Russian, Turkish, Canadian and Chechen, apprehende­d in the last pocket of Isis territory in Mosul. Iraqi forces said they discovered weapons and suicide belts at the site. – Telegraph Group

 ??  ?? Linda Wenzel reportedly joined Islamic State after being radicalise­d online.
Linda Wenzel reportedly joined Islamic State after being radicalise­d online.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand