BERLIN — 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 ISIS militants. She could theoretically face the death penalty in Iraq for membership in ISIS, according to the country’s counter-terrorism law.
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 she can return to her home country or if she will be tried in Iraq for membership in ISIS.
She was expected to be interrogated this week by Iraqi officials.
The teenager has received consular assistance from the German Embassy in Iraq, prosecutor Lorenz Haase said from the eastern German city of Dresden.
Iraqi officials told the Associated Press last week that on the day of her arrest she was “too stunned” to speak, but she had improved since then. They said she had been working with the ISIS police department.
While Wenzel could theoretically face the death sentence, even if she is sentenced to death in Iraq, she would not be executed before the age of 22.
Photos of a disheveled young woman in the presence of Iraqi soldiers went viral online last week, but there were contradicting reports about the girl’s identity.
The German teenager had married a Muslim Arab she met online after arriving in the group’s territory, Iraqi officials told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information was not public. They said Wenzel was one of 26 foreigners arrested in Mosul since the retreat of the extremists there.
Haase, the German prosecutor, told the AP that his office had “not applied for an arrest warrant and will therefore not be able to request extradition.”
“There is the possibility that Linda might be put on trial in Iraq,” Haase added last week. “She might be expelled for being a foreigner or, because she is a minor reported missing in Germany, she could be handed over to Germany.”
The 26 foreigners found in Mosul included two men, eight children and 16 women, the Iraqi officials said. Some of those arrested were from Chechnya, and the women were from Russia, Iran, Syria, France, Belgium and Germany.
In addition to Wenzel, the Iraqis found three other women from Germany, with roots in Morocco, Algeria and Chechnya. The Iraqi officials said the German-Moroccan woman has a child and both were arrested in Mosul about ten days ago.
More than 930 people, among them severalin Syria and Iraq in recent years, the German news agency dpa reported.
While some have been killed in battle and suicide bombings and others have returned to Germany, there’s also a large number that are unaccounted for, German security officials say. Many of them were radicalized via social media.
Local newspapers reported last year that Wenzel was in touch with ISIS members online before she ran away from home. She started wearing long gowns before she disappeared from her family’s home last summer. Her mother later found a copy of the girl’s plane ticket to Turkey under a bed, German media reported.
The mayor of Pulsnitz, Barbara Kueke, told dpa on Saturday that she was relieved the girl had been found. She described the teenager’s family as very reclusive.
Lueke said the school had been aware of the girl’s conversion to Islam and the principal had talked to the parents about it, adding that “it was very surprising, though, that the girl has been radicalized in such a way.”
In a different case, a French woman captured earlier this month in Mosul with her four children is facing possible prosecution in Iraq for allegedly collaborating with ISIS.
The woman, believed to be in her 30s, was arrested July 9 along with her two sons and two daughters in a basement in Mosul’s Old City, according to Iraqi intelligence officials.
Two Iraqi intelligence officials told the AP on Wednesday that the woman is being investigated in Baghdad and could face terrorism charges for illegally entering Iraq and joining ISIS, and that the French government wants the children handed over to France.