Terror group ISIS is using “headhunters” on social media and instant messaging sites to recruit troubled young people in Germany, some as young as 13 or 14, the head of the country’s domestic intelligence agency said on Thursday.
Hans-Georg Maassen also drew parallels between the extremist group and past radical movements such as communism and Adolf Hitler’s Nationalist Socialists that also tried to lure young people keen to rebel against their parents and society.
“On social media networks there are practically headhunters who approach young people and get them interested in this ideology,” Maassen told foreign reporters in Berlin.
He cited the cases of a German-Moroccan girl, Safia S., 16, who is accused of stabbing a policeman at a train station in Hanover in February last year, and a 12-year-old German-Iraqi boy who tried to detonate two explosive devices in the western town of Ludwigshafen in December.
In closing arguments at Safia’s trial on Thursday, prosecutors asked the judge to convict her of attempted murder, grave physical injury and support of a foreign terrorist organization, with a sentence of six years in prison. A verdict is expected on Jan. 26.
Prosecutors are also seeking a three-year sentence for Mohamad Hasan K., a 20-year-old German-Syrian accused of having known of Safia’s planned attack but not informing the police.
About 20 percent of an estimated 900 people from Germany who have been recruited by ISIS to join the fight in Iraq and Syria are women, some as young as 13 or 14, Maassen said.
German authorities are monitoring 548 radicals deemed to be a security risk, but German law does not allow for their arrest until they have committed a crime, Maassen said.
He said he was satisfied that police and security officials had communicated well over the case of the failed Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri, who killed 12 people on Dec. 19 by ramming a truck through a Berlin Christmas market.
The case sparked criticism because German authorities had identified Amri, who was imprisoned in Italy for four years, as a security risk and had investigated him for various reasons, but never took him into custody.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Wednesday the cases of all those deemed a security risk in the aftermath of the Berlin attack would be reviewed.