29 German Soldiers Have Joined ISIS; Germany Fears Its Army May Contain More Jihadist Sympathizers

110724-N-LU859-381 Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan. (Aug. 08, 2011) A soldier of the Camp Marmal Force Protection Group mans a machine gun atop a vehicle as part of a patrol. He is one of many soldiers of the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command North who are responsible for protecting Camp Marmal and its airfield against intrusion attempts and attacks, as well the protection of aircraft during takeoff and landing. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Burt W. Eichen/Released)

At least 29 former German soldiers have left to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and another 65 active soldiers are being investigated for alleged jihadist sympathies, according to a report undertaken by the German military counter intelligence service (MAD).

The documents reveal that at least 29 former German soldiers have fled to the Middle East to join Islamic State (IS), according to the DPA news agency.

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

Since 2007, as many as 22 soldiers within the German Army have been identified as Islamists—17 were sacked, while the remaining 5 had reached the end of their service when the investigation was concluded.

In total, the MAD has investigated 320 suspected cases of Islamism since 2007, according to DPA.

In response to this shocking discovery, the German defense ministry is preparing a draft law that foresees background checks on all future army recruits, in order to ensure that jihadists are not infiltrating the German Army.

Currently, background checks are reserved only for those who are joining sensitive areas of the German military—ordinary soldiers do not go through any vetting process.

“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.”

In the meantimea team supported by German soldiers with Arabic origins have been temporarily assigned with running background checks on prospective soldiers. “A situation in which there are terrorists trained by the Bundeswehr has to be avoided at all costs,” a member of the group told DPA.

In addition, German domestic intelligence fears that newly-arrived immigrants are being radicalized. Cities, public transport and large-scale public events such as open air fests are all potential targets for an attack.

“We see the security situation as very serious, though we have no immediate intelligence on planned attacks in Germany,” Hans-Georg Maassen the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution— Germany’s main counter-intelligence and homeland security agency—told Die Welt newspaper in a comprehensive interview released on Sunday.

“IS is willing to carry out attacks on Germany and German interests,” Maassen said. “we’ve seen many times that those [German nationals] who returned from Syria had links to planning attacks in Germany.

A recent study conducted by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) and published on April 1 revealed that between 720 and 760 Germans are believed to have traveled to join IS.

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