More than 200 people from Germany fighting Islamic State in Syria

 10 Apr 2017 - 16:32

More than 200 people from Germany fighting Islamic State in Syria
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters stand near food supplies on the bank of the Euphrates river, west of Raqqa city, Syria April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said

AFP

Berlin: More than 200 people have travelled from Germany to fight with Kurdish militias against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, the interior ministry reported Monday.

Sixty-nine of the 204 fighters are German nationals, the ministry added in a statement on the issue which is particularly delicate for German-Turkish relations. 

The official data did not include fighters for the peshmerga, the armed forces of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

Among the volunteers who have travelled from Germany since 2013, 102 have returned including 43 German citizens.

Three have been killed including one fighter in a Turkish air strike on a Syrian village last November.

The ministry said the exact circumstances of the raid were unclear: "There was no occasion to discuss his death with the Turkish government."

The information was released following a formal query by an MP from the far-left opposition party Die Linke. 

The MP, Ulla Jelpke, criticised the findings, calling it "scandalous" that Berlin had failed to investigate the death in the Turkish raid.

The German government warns against travel to the areas of heavy fighting in Iraq and Syria. 

But it does not actively dissuade the fighters with the Kurdish forces or consider them to be a security risk upon their return "as opposed to those who return from areas under the control of the Islamists in Syria/Iraq", the ministry said. 

Hundreds of foreign fighters have fought alongside the Kurds in Syria, of whom at least 25 have been killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor says.

The United States is arming and training the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), but questions remain over how much support Washington should give the Kurdish component of the alliance given concerns from Turkey, a NATO partner which views the Kurdish fighters as "terrorists".

Turkey appears to be sidelined as the SDF including Kurdish fighters are laying the groundwork for an assault on the heart of the jihadists' so-called caliphate.