Angela Merkel’s government is considering plans to bring home German suspected Isil fighters and their families currently being held by Kurdish forces in Syria, it emerged today.
The development will add to international pressure on the UK to repatriate British Isil suspects being held under similar circumstances — including two members of the notorious “Beatles” execution cell.
“The federal government is examining all options for a possible return of German nationals,” the German foreign ministry said on Wednesday in a written answer to a parliamentary question.
Hundreds of European citizens are currently being held by US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria after being captured during fighting. They include suspected Isil volunteers and their wives and children.
So far the UK and European governments have refused repeated demands from Kurdish forces and pressure from US military commanders to take back their own citizens.
Among the detainees are believed to be at least 35 German citizens, 14 of whom are under investigation by the German authorities as suspected Isil fighters.
They are believed to include Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a German-Syrian who has been linked to a terror attack in New York last year in which a pick-up truck was driven into cyclists and runners, killing eight people.
Top five suppliers of foreign fighters to Isil per million individuals
They are also believed to include a man suspected of planning an attack on a music festival in Germany, who has been named only as Oguz G, and members of the “Lohberg Brigade”, a group of German Isil volunteers who circulated pictures of beheaded Kurdish fighters on the internet and are suspected of torturing prisoners.
One of the detainees interviewed by Berliner Morgenpost newspaper claimed he had travelled to Syria to help the injured and was not involved in fighting. “I never killed anyone,” the man, named only as Dirk P, told the newspaper.
It was not immediately clear what options the German government is considering to repatriate the detainees. Germany currently has no diplomatic mission in Syria, and it is thought the country may seek the help of the International Red Cross.
US-backed Kurdish forces say they cannot prosecute the detainees or hold them indefinitely. The US, Russia and Indonesia have taken their nationals from among the detainees to face justice in their home countries.
Major General Patrick Roberson, commander of US special ops, last month called on the UK to repatriate British Isil suspects among the detainees in an interview with the BBC.
The British detainees include El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, who are suspected former members of the “Beatles”, the notorious Isil execution sqaud that also included Mohammed Emwazi.
Emwazi, who was known as “Jihadi John”, was killed in a US air strike in 2015.