Sunday 17 November 2019

German girl (16) found in Mosul tunnel 'was married to Chechen Isis fighter and killed Iraqi troops'

Iraqi soldiers with Linda Wenzel
Iraqi soldiers with Linda Wenzel

Josie Ensor in Berlin

A German teenage girl who was captured by Iraqi forces in Mosul was married to a Chechen Islamic State fighter and has admitted to killing Iraqi troops, according to one of the soldiers who arrested her.

Linda Wenzel (16), from the town of Pulsnitz, near Dresden, was said to have been a sniper for Isil.

Pictures shared on social media show the girl being escorted by Iraqi security forces after they discovered her alive in a tunnel under rubble in Isil's last redoubt in the Old City.

"We found her with a gun in her hand next to her Chechen husband, who was then killed by Iraqi forces in a firefight. She said she had killed a number of our men in the battle," a source told the Telegraph anonymously.

"She was a Daesh sniper, but maybe her husband pressured her into it. She looked scared,."

Linda went missing from her home in Saxony a year ago. She travelled to Istanbul posing as her mother Catherine, and then down to Turkey's border with Syria, where she crossed with the help of an Islamist group aligned with Isil.

According to reports, the jihadists then handed her over to an Isil fighter, who is believed to have groomed her over the internet.

Linda is thought to have made it to Mosul before the army launched the offensive to retake the city in October.

She lived with her mother and step-father in Germany. Until six months before she fled to join Isil, she had never even travelled by train alone.

She grew up in a Protestant family, and had not showed any interest in religion until a few months before her disappearance. In the spring of last year, 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 reporters.

A little later, she began fasting for Ramadan, but told her parents she was on a diet. She began covering up and wearing heavy clothes, even on hot days, then disappeared after telling her parents she wanted to stay at a friend's house.

"In her room, police found a print of a plane ticket to Istanbul under the mattress. I was shocked, my daughter has never stolen or lied about anything before," her mother said after she went missing.

Linda is said to have forged her mother's ID papers and used fake bank authorisation to fly to Turkey.

"I am devastated by the fact that she was apparently completely brainwashed and persuaded to leave the country and that she managed to hide it from me."

When they searched her room, her parents found a prayer mat and a tablet computer with a second Facebook account they did not know about on it.

On this account, Linda was in touch with people in the Middle East and shared messages such as "Pray, the end is approaching".

Friends say she converted to Islam last year and was radicalised online. She started learning Arabic, taking the Koran to school and wearing conservative clothing , and later changed her name to Mariam.

Authorities in Dresden said she had been under investigation for being involved in preparations for a violent act against the state, but that the probe had been suspended due to her absence. She is understood to have been handed over to US troops stationed in Iraq.

Four other German women were also reportedly discovered last week in a tunnel system built by Isil.

Iraqi forces found weapons and suicide belts at the site. They were part of a group of 20 female fighters, including Russian, Turkish, Canadian and Chechen women.

It is not clear whether the girl will be held in Iraq or deported back to Germany to face trial.

A senior Iraqi judge told reporters earlier this year that foreign members of Isil would be tried in Iraqi courts, however, as she is considered a minor, they may decide to extradite her.

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