By Josie Ensor and Luna Safwan in Beirut
The German teenage girl captured in Mosul was married to a Chechen ISIL fighter and has admitted killing Iraqi troops, according to one of the soldiers who arrested her. Linda Wenzel, 16, who was discovered hiding in a tunnel under Mosul’s Old City last week, is being questioned by American and Iraqi interrogators in Baghdad.
Mortada al-Aboudi, an officer in Iraq’s counter-terrorism unit, told The Daily Telegraph she was a sniper for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“We found her with a gun in her hand next to her Chechen husband, who was then killed by Iraqi forces in a firefight. She said she had killed a number of our men in the battle.
“I believe she was a Daesh sniper, but maybe her husband pressured her into it. She looked scared,” he said, using a pejorative name for the jihadists.
Vian Dakhil, an Iraqi MP, said Linda was found near explosives and was “ready to attack the advancing troops”.
“She was with other women in that tunnel and all of them were ready to attack in busy streets, just like other ISIL women did before,” said Dakhil.
More than 20 other foreign women were reportedly found alongside the girl, including Russians, Turks and Canadians. Aboudi said Wenzel had the ID card of a Yazidi, thousands of whom were kidnapped by ISIL in 2014, and claimed to be one the missing girls. However, when Aboudi’s unit asked civilians to identify her they shied away.
“They looked afraid to answer, which made us think she wasn’t a Yazidi,” he said. When a soldier said a few words in German, she responded immediately.
It is understood the Chechen fighter struck up a relationship with Linda online, exchanging messages in a chatroom and ultimately convincing her to join him in ISIL’s so-called caliphate.
Thousands of Chechens travelled to Syria and Iraq, making the majority-Muslim region of Russia one of the biggest exporters of fighters to ISIL. Linda travelled last year from her home in the German town of Pulsnitz, near Dresden, to Istanbul and from there the Syrian border, posing as her mother Katharina.
She grew up in a Protestant family, and had not showed any interest in religion until a few months before her disappearance. In the spring of 2016 she told her parents she was interested in Islam. Friends in Pulsnitz say she converted and started learning Arabic, taking the Qu’ran to school and wearing more conservative clothing. After she went missing, her mother found a secret Facebook account which she used to contact jihadists.
Dakhil said Linda’s mother had confirmed the girl in custody to be her daughter, but that she would still have DNA tests before a decision about whether to return her to Germany.
Dakhil said she was pushing Iraq to try her as an adult and not to extradite her. “Iraq does not have any agreement with Germany to exchange terrorists or people held in custody,” she said. “She is a German woman who came to Iraq to kill Iraqis, thus she should be prosecuted here in Iraq.”