German soldiers ‘may have joined Isis in Syria’

German soldiers 'may have joined Isis in Syria'
A soldier on guard outside a German army base in 2010. File photo: DPA
At least 29 German soldiers have travelled to Syria or Iraq in recent years, an internal military report has found, with some believed to have joined terror group Isis.

The internal report from the military counter-intelligence service MAD, seen by DPA, also showed that 65 active soldiers are currently under investigation on suspicion of having Islamist sympathies.

Since 2007, the Bundeswehr (German army) has identified 22 soldiers in its ranks as Islamists and relieved 17 of them from their duties.

The remaining five had reached the end of their service by the time the investigation concluded.

That overall figure has increased by four cases since the first report on Islamists in the army in 2015.

“Islamism isn't the main problem of the Bundeswehr,” Social Democratic Party (SPD) MP Hans-Peter Bartels – responsible for oversight of the army – said on Tuesday. “But it represents a real danger that we have to take seriously.”

In future, the defence ministry wants to have MAD investigate every prospective soldier for links to anti-Constitutional movements, a move which would require a change in the law.

Until now, soldiers have only been checked before assignment to sensitive areas of the military, for example with access to secret files, but not for ordinary soldiers with access to battlefield weapons.

“Just like other fighting forces, the Bundeswehr can be attractive for Islamists who want to acquire weapons training,” Bartels said. “But to my knowledge there is so far no systematic push by Islamist organizations to infiltrate the army.”