OSW Report

Islamic State in Germany, Germans in Islamic State. Germany’s homegrown jihadists

Islamic State in Germany, Germans in Islamic State

Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, around 810 individuals from Germany have travelled to the Middle East to support Islamic terror groups. Departures by militants from Germany to conflict regions with the intention to help their ‘brothers in faith’ are not a new phenomenon and form one of the symptoms of the existence (for some time already) of radical groups of German Muslims or, more broadly speaking, of the socio-political problem of the lack of integration of a section of individuals stemming from immigrant families. According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the departures of Muslims from Germany to fight in the war in Syria also pose a potential threat for Germany. Until recently, the German security services emphasised numerous advantages of the fact that radical Islamists had left the country. They thus turned a blind eye to travelling jihadists or even facilitated their travel. The logic behind this approach was as follows: if we are dealing with a radical Islamist, who is ready to carry out an attack in Germany, it is better to have him leave the country. This strategy was being followed until the autumn of 2013. This was when it became evident that Syria, not Afghanistan, is the main destination for German jihadists. Moreover, the number of individuals who travelled to Islamic State has led to the conclusion that the risk posed by returning militants who have gained combat experience, outweighs the advantages associated with their temporary absence from Germany. According to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) figures, around a third of the 810 Islamic radicals who had left Germany to fight in Syria, have returned to Germany.