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German runaway who converted to Islam found in Mosul

The market place of Pulsnitz photographed on Saturday, July 22, 2017. A German girl, who ran away from home shortly after converting to Islam, has been found in Iraq, prosecutors said Saturday. The 16-year-old teenager, only identified as Linda W. is getting consular assistance from the German Embassy in Iraq, said prosecutor Lorenz Haase from the eastern German city of Dresden. Haase wouldn't confirm media reports that the teenager from Pulsnitz in eastern Germany had been fighting for the Islamic State group in Mosul. (Sebastian Willnow/dpa via AP)

Associated Press

A German girl, who ran away from the German town of Pulsnitz shortly after converting to Islam, has been found in Iraq, prosecutors said Saturday. The 16-year-old teenager, only identified as Linda W. is getting consular assistance from the German Embassy in Iraq.

BERLIN — A German girl who ran away from home after converting to Islam has been found as Iraqi forces liberated the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State extremists, German and Iraqi officials said Saturday.

She is reported to be in good health and will be interrogated next week by Iraqi officials.

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Officials said the 16-year-old teenager, only identified as Linda W. in line with German privacy laws, was one of 26 foreigners arrested in Mosul since the retreat of the extremists there.

The group includes several people suspected of supporting terrorism, as well as several children, who are expected to be returned to their home countries.

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The German girl is getting consular assistance from the German Embassy in Iraq, prosecutor Lorenz Haase said from the eastern German city of Dresden.

Three Iraqi intelligence and investigative sources said the teenager was apprehended in the basement of a home in Mosul’s Old City earlier this month. Iraqi officials said that on the day of her arrest she was ‘‘too stunned’’ to speak but now she is doing better. They said she had been working with the ISIS police department.

Linda W. could theoretically face the death sentence under Iraqi’s counterterrorism law. However, even if she is sentenced to death in Iraq, she would not be executed before the age of 22.

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Photos of a disheveled young woman in the presence of Iraqi soldiers went viral online last week, but there were contradicting reports about the girl’s identity.

The German teenager had married a Muslim Arab she met online after arriving in the group’s territory, the Iraqi officials added, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information was not public.

So far, the young German has not made any statement. The officials said she is currently being held together with other foreign women at a prison near Baghdad’s airport. Starting next week, she will be investigated by the Iraqis, who will bring in German interpreters for the interrogation since she does not speak much Arabic.

Haase said the girl ran away from her family home in Pulsnitz in eastern Germany last summer. It’s not clear yet whether she will return to Germany, he said.

‘‘We, as the public prosecutor’s office Dresden, have not applied for an arrest warrant and will therefore not be able to request extradition,’’ Haase said. ‘‘There is the possibility that Linda might be put on trial in Iraq. She might be expelled for being a foreigner or, because she is a minor reported missing in Germany, she could be handed over to Germany.’’

The 26 foreigners found in Mosul included two men, eight children, and 16 women, the Iraqi officials said. Some of those arrested were from Chechnya, and the women were from Russia, Iran, Syria, France, Belgium, and Germany.

In addition to Linda W., the Iraqis found three other women from Germany, with roots in Morocco, Algeria, and Chechnya. The Iraqi officials said the German-Moroccan woman has a child and both were arrested in Mosul about 10 days ago.

They said the women allegedly worked with ISIS in the police department. Their husbands were ISIS fighters but their fates were not clear.

French and German Embassy personnel have already visited the arrested women, they said. The children will be handed over to the countries they belong to, while the women will be tried on terrorism charges in Iraq, according to the officials.

More than 930 people, among them several girls and young women, have left Germany to join ISIS in recent years, the German news agency Dpa reported.

While some have been killed in battle and suicide bombings and others have returned to Germany, there’s also a large number that are unaccounted for, German security officials say. Many of them were radicalized via social media.

Local newspapers reported last year that Linda W. was in touch with ISIS members online before she ran away from home. She started wearing long gowns before she disappeared from her family’s home last summer. Her mother later found a copy of the girl’s plane ticket to Turkey under a bed, German media reported.

The mayor of Pulsnitz, Barbara Kueke, told Dpa on Saturday that she was relieved the girl had been found. She described the teenager’s family as very reclusive.

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