A young German teenager was detained while attempting to cross the Turkish border into Syria Friday. Thirteen-year-old Erkan, whose last name was not provided, was intent on making it to Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the Islamic State group (ISIS), but was prevented as German security officials put a wrench in his plans.
The boy had been living in a shelter in the southern German town of Dachau before he and a female cousin boarded a plane for Turkey, The Local, a German English news source, reported Wednesday. His cousin was denied entry into Turkey, so Erkan was on his own to find his way into war-ravaged Syria. Unable to make contact with an ISIS member who was to help him across the border, the teenager logged on to Facebook to find help.
Investigative police with the Federal Criminal Police Office in Germany were able to make contact with the boy on Facebook, who they had already been searching for in Germany, and posed as jihadists able to help him cross the border. With help from Turkish authorities, Erkan was detained in southern Turkey.
Germany has seen hundreds, possibly thousands, of its young travel to Syria to join ISIS in recent months. There are officially at least 680 German nationals fighting with militant groups in Syria, though the actual number could be much higher, McClatchy DC reported. The group reportedly draws many of its German recruits from young converts to Islam, unaccompanied refugees and those, like Erkan, who are homeless or in foster care.
“The recruiters are offering brotherhood, family, for those who don’t fit in,” Magnus Ranstorp, an international security expert at the Swedish National Defense University, told McClatchy. “And they’re offering them the chance to become heroes in the great struggle of our times.”
— Muftah (@MuftahOrg) July 20, 2015
Teenagers in other nations have also joined ISIS. Most notably, three British schoolgirls disappeared from their homes in east London and flew to Syria together. Once it was realized the girls were missing, British and Turkish authorities launched a mass but ultimately unsuccessful search to find them before they crossed into ISIS-controlled territory. Their current location remains unknown, though there were reports in May that the girls, all around age 16, were believed to be on the run from ISIS.
A 15-year-old from Frankfurt, Germany, also successfully managed to cross the border in the past, and was reportedly killed in a battle with the Syrian army, The Local reported. A 15-year-old Austrian girl ran away from her Vienna home for Syria last year to live under the militant group's rule.