Report: German runaway found in Iraq wants to go home

  • In World/Asia
  • 2017-07-24 14:01:00Z

BERLIN (AP) - A teenage German girl who ran away after converting to Islam and was found by Iraqi troops in Mosul says she wants to go home, a German newspaper and broadcaster reported Monday.

"I just want to go back home to my family," 16-year-old Linda Wenzel said. "I want to get away from the war, away from all the weapons, away from the noise."

German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcaster ARD said their reporter interviewed the girl in Baghdad after she was found earlier this month as Iraqi forces liberated the northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State group. She could theoretically face the death penalty in Iraq for membership in IS, according to the country's counter-terrorism law.

Wenzel ran away from her home in the small eastern German town of Pulsnitz last summer, shortly after converting to Islam, according to German security officials. She had been in touch with IS members online and was married to one of the extremist group's fighters after arriving in the group's territory.

Her husband died shortly after the marriage, the German media reported.

The girl said she had been hiding in a basement in Mosul when Iraqi soldiers captured her. She said she is "doing fine" despite a bullet wound in her left leg that she said "is from a helicopter attack."

She is currently in a military hospital ward in Baghdad, according to the report.

It's not clear if Wenzel can return to Germany or if she will be tried as an IS member. However, even if she is sentenced to death in Iraq, she would not be executed before the age of 22.

A spokeswoman for the German Foreign Office, Maria Adebahr, said German Embassy staff visited Wenzel and another German woman on Thursday. While Germany and Iraq didn't have any official extradition agreements, the German government was looking into other ways of cooperation regarding the two German women, Adebahr said.

Photos of a disheveled young woman in the presence of Iraqi soldiers went viral online earlier this month, but there were initially contradicting reports about the girl's identity.

The soldiers initially mistook her for a Yazidi woman, but the teenager told them: "I'm not Yazidi, I'm German."

Wenzel was one of 26 foreigners arrested in Mosul this month, Iraqi officials have said.

The Iraqis found three other women from Germany, with roots in Morocco, Algeria and Chechnya. Iraqi officials said the German-Moroccan woman has a child and both were arrested in Mosul about 10 days ago.

The Chechen-German woman was identified as Fatima by Sueddeutsche Zeitung and ARD. She is sharing a room with Wenzel and has an arm injury, they reported, adding that the woman had told them that her two children were missing after a recent air raid in Mosul.

German paper Bild reported Monday that Linda's father, whose name was only given as Reiner W., learned of his missing daughter's whereabouts on the radio as he was working on the construction of a German highway.

"I had a breakdown where I heard that Linda is alive," Bild quoted the divorced father as saying. "I so much wish that my Linda will come home healthy again. I will always be there for her."


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