A 16-year-old girl from Germany has been identified in Iraq one week after the capture of 20 female Islamic State fighters in the liberated city of Mosul, officials in her home state of Saxony confirmed.
Prosecutors in Dresden, the capital of the eastern state, said the girl is receiving assistance at the German embassy in Baghdad and did not give further details.
Islamic State militants were ousted from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, earlier this month following a gruelling US-backed campaign that has left much of the city in ruins.
Days after the recapture of the city, Iraqi counter-terrorism units detained 20 female jihadists from a tunnel discovered under a Mosul Old City neighbourhood.
Reports began circulating that the German teen was one of them but prosecutors were unable to confirm Saturday whether this was the case.
The 16-year-old schoolgirl from the small town of Pulsnitz, north-east of Dresden, disappeared in 2016 shortly after converting to Islam.
She is thought to have been in contact with Islamic State supporters via internet chatrooms.
German weekly Spiegel reported that the girl is one of four German women currently in prison in the Iraqi capital after having joined Islamic State.
They were reportedly caught shortly after Mosul was liberated.
The magazine reported that German diplomats were able to visit all four prisoners at a detention facility at Baghdad airport after Iraqi officials had shared a list of their names on Monday.
They are reported to be in good condition, according to an initial assessment.
One of the German women has Moroccan heritage, while another is from Chechnya but has a German passport.
There have been contradictory reports about the women’s identities and whether the teenager was one of the 20 women arrested.
An Iraqi counter-terrorism official said all of those detained were aged over 30, adding that they were armed with explosive belts and weapons in order to attack troops.
He said the detained group included foreign nationals from Russia, Turkey, Canada and Chechnya.
According to Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, 20 per cent of Islamic State sympathizers who have left the country to travel to conflict zones in Iraq and Syria were women.
Among those aged under 18, that figure jumps to around half.
Young women and girls’ reasons for joining the extremist Sunni militia are manifold.
Some are attracted to male fighters portrayed as heroic princes in Islamic State propaganda, said Islam expert Marwan Abou-Taam, who works for the German state of Rhineland Palatinate’s criminal investigation bureau.
Others are won over by the group’s ideology and many are going through personal crises in their own lives, Abou-Taam told dpa.
“Many women are abused,” he said, adding that they often live in half-way houses “until they are assigned to a man.”
Others take on roles in the female division of the group’s sharia police, enforcing strict Islamic laws on fellow women.
An Iraqi official said some of the 20 arrested women had been operating in this role.
Following Mosul’s liberation, Iraqi security forces said several women, including foreign nationals, were among the suicide bombers who targeted troops sweeping the Old City for surviving militants.