German spies are allegedly exchanging information about the Islamic State group with Syrian President Bashar Assad's authoritarian government in Damascus, according to a report Friday in a German newspaper. The Bild reported that agents from Berlin's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, had been traveling to the war-torn country to collaborate with Syrian colleagues on issues relating to ISIS, despite Chancellor Angela Merkel's opposition to Assad remaining in power, according to a report Friday from the Berlin-based Deutsche Welle newsgroup.
Merkel told German lawmakers Wednesday that diplomatic efforts to end the 4-year conflict in Syria were striving to reach a long-term solution that does not involve Assad. The spy report comes two weeks after the German Parliament approved military assets to take part in the ongoing war against ISIS. Germany is providing 1,200 troops, Tornado reconnaissance jets and a frigate to protect France's aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is anchored off the coast of Syria and is launching jets targeting ISIS locations.
— dwnews (@dwnews) December 18, 2015
It's expected that the spies will work from inside the German embassy in Damascus, although a government spokeswoman would not confirm. "I can't comment on operative details of the BND's work," German government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz told reporters in Berlin Friday.
German Spy Chief Hans-Georg Maassen told German broadcaster MDR last week that there were 1,100 extremists in Germany prepared to use violence at any moment. "Now that Germany is actively taking part in the war, it is of course being seen in the same light as the USA, France and so on. But we do not see the danger, which was already big anyway, increasing due to this," he added.