Germans train with militants in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD | The video at first seems like many others filmed in Pakistan’s tribal areas: The bearded militant sits cross-legged on the floor, an AK-47 propped against the wall behind him.
But as he applauds his three companions’ decision to join jihad, the words come out in fluent German: “Wir sind die Soldaten Allah,” he says — “We are the soldiers of Allah.”
Fifteen to 40 Germans and a smaller contingent of other Europeans are believed to be getting militant training in Pakistan’s lawless border region, intending to join the Taliban’s fight against NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan or return to Europe and strike at the soft underbelly of those countries.
Their presence has attracted fresh scrutiny after a European terror warning based on information from a German-Afghan captured in Afghanistan and a CIA drone strike Tuesday that reportedly killed eight German militants in North Waziristan — an al Qaeda and Taliban hub that the Pakistani army so far has left largely alone.
The German speaker in the jihad video, Mounir Chouka, is one of two Bonn-born brothers with dual German-Moroccan citizenship well known for appearances in videos made by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan apparently aimed at recruiting more militants from Germany.
German federal prosecutors confirmed Thursday that the two are under investigation on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organization.
The clip appeared on a militant website this summer, a nearly 40-minute video telling new recruits of the legitimacy of jihad, or holy war.
“At every border crossing, at every airport and at every search, we pray to Allah … to make these enemies blind,” he says. “Allah answered. The proof? We are here.”
Germans are thought to be one of the largest European groups in Pakistan’s northwest, though information is scant. Most are believed to be immigrants from Muslim nations or their descendants.
The Germans killed Tuesday were hit by a drone strike in Mir Ali, a town about 20 miles from the border with Afghanistan.
Reporters who have been to Mir Ali describe Internet cafes in the basement of shops where militants from all over the world watch extremist videos or send e-mails. The Pakistani army has a base nearby, but soldiers do not patrol the area.
“For three or four months we have been hearing that there are people who say they are from Germany who have been trickling in one by one,” said retired Brig. Mahmood Shah, the former chief of security of Pakistan’s tribal regions. “Some people say that they are Turkish, or appear to be Turkish, or maybe Turkish from Germany.”
Brig. Shah said the group is thought to include about 15 to 20 people, but, he conceded, “nothing much is known about them.”
Many top al Qaeda Arab leaders are believed to be somewhere in the border region, including Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Of the Germans in the region, most recent attention has been on Ahmed Siddiqui, a German citizen of Afghan descent who had been in the Mir Ali area and was captured in Afghanistan in July. He is being interrogated by U.S. forces at Bagram Air Field, German and U.S. officials have said.