German teenage 'Isis bride' who faces death penalty in Iraq 'was groomed'

16-year-old claims another girl persuaded her to convert to Islam after the pair chatted online

Rachel Roberts
Thursday 05 October 2017 11:24 BST
Footage shows Isis schoolgirl Linda Wenzel being captured in Iraq

A German teenager facing the death penalty in Iraq after she joined Isis has said she was groomed online by a Jordanian girl who put her in touch with a jihadist.

Linda Wenzel was arrested by Iraqi forces after they pulled her from the rubble during the liberation of Mosul from Isis control. She is accused of taking part in combat for the jihadists, which she denies.

The 16-year-old is now being held in a Baghdad prison where her fate lies in the hands of the Iraqi courts. The country’s Prime Minister last month said it was possible she could be put to death if her actions were considered serious enough.

The teenager, who was just 15 when she fled her hometown in eastern Germany to become an Isis bride, claims a girl who gave her name as Fatema persuaded her to convert to Islam in 2016 after the two began chatting on jihadist forums.

The German teen said Fatema introduced her to her future husband, former Isis fighter Abu Usama al-Shisani, and the two also began chatting.

She said she told Chechen national al-Shisani about problems she was having at home and he convinced her to run away, promising to marry her if she joined Isis.

He also told her how she could get the travel documents she needed to travel to Turkey.

By the time she arrived in Turkey, he had fled to Syria – but Wenzel claims the pair got married “over the phone”. The pair then united and moved along the Turkish borders and into Syria together, eventually reaching the former Isis stronghold of Mosul.

She says her husband was killed in action three months after she arrived in Mosul, and her request to return home was rejected by the jihadists, who gave her a widow’s allowance of $200 (£151).

She was found huddled in a basement in July, after spending around a year in Iraq since leaving home aged just 15.

The teenager insists she only lived as a housemaid and played no part in combat activities, as Iraqi intelligence sources claim.

Wenzel is understood to be desperate to be returned to Germany amid fears she could either face years in jail, or the death penalty, which is carried out by hanging in Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said last month that despite her youth, Wenzel could be held fully accountable for her actions.

“You know teenagers under certain laws, they are accountable for their actions especially if the act is a criminal activity when it amounts to killing innocent people,” he said.

The German teenager is being held in a prison at Baghdad’s airport together with other foreign women found in Mosul and suspected of having played a role in jihadist activity, including citizens from Belgium, France, Syria and Iran.

Iraqi officials told the Associated Press that “hundreds” more suspected Isis brides are being held in various prisons in the Mosul area.

Iraq carried out at least 88 executions by hanging in 2016 and has put to death large numbers of people for terrorism offences since wresting Mosul back from Isis.

If tried in Germany, Wenzel could face a prison term between of between one and ten years. Germany's Foreign Ministry previously said they were working on returning the teen and three other German women who are imprisoned in Iraq, but there is currently no extradition treaty between the two countries.

Amir Musawy, an Iraqi journalist who met Wenzel after her arrest, said she was “exhausted” and had a leg injury when he spoke to her.

“I do not have the feeling that she understands what she did, and what she might have waiting for her, whether in Iraq or in Germany.

“She just told me that she wants her home back, like a journey that she went on and did not like.”

Speaking in her prison cell in Baghdad, Wenzel is reported to have said: 'I just want to get away from here. I want to get away from the war, from the many weapons, from the noise.I just want to go home to my family.'

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