Five German men have been jailed for joining the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia. A sixth man, who was accused by the group of being a spy and was tortured, received a suspended sentence.
The Frankfurter higher regional court sentenced the five men, all German citizens, to between three-and-a-half years and five years in prison for membership of a foreign terrorist organisation following their return to Germany, AFP has reported.
The men have been identified by their first names only, as brothers Abdullah, Abdulsalam and Abdiwahid W, all of Somali origin; a brother in law, Steven N., also of Somali origin; and their German-Tunisian friend Mounir T.
The men left their homes in Bonn, Germany in 2012, travelling to Kenya. A year later they moved on to Somalia, some taking their wives and children with them. There they took part in several months of combat training, before serving for between 13 and 18 months on various al-Shabaab bases and combat positions, the court heard.
However, by July 2014 the men, aged in their 20s, had become dissatisfied with al-Shabaab’s “rigid treatment” of foreign fighters and opted to leave. Three contacted the German embassy in Nairobi and were arrested upon their return to Frankfurt.
Two, Abdiwahid W. and Mounir T., planned to travel instead to Syria to join Islamic State, but were arrested en route in Kenya and were deported to Germany.
The sixth man, a German man with Somali roots named as Omar Ahmed D., also travelled to Somalia via Kenya in 2013 but had raised suspicions while staying in an al-Shabaab clearing house by asking too many questions and leaving periodically, the court heard. The militants, assuming him to be a spy, locked him up and “abused and tortured” him for months before finally letting him go.
He was subsequently arrested in Kenya and from there he was deported back to Germany in 2014, where he has since been studying. Having never officially joined al-Shabaab, he was given a suspended sentence.
Al-Shabaab, otherwise known as the “Mujahideen Youth Movement”, is an east African Islamic militant group allied to al-Qaeda, counting between 7,000 and 9,000 militants in its ranks. Responsible for a string of atrocities, its most notorious attacks were on Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013, in which 67 people were killed and 175 injured, and the killing of 147 people, mostly students, at Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015.