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German Government Trying To Bring Back Children Who Ended Up With ISIS


And in Germany, the government is trying to bring about the return of German children who ended up with ISIS. Some of the children were taken to Iraq by their German parents. Others were born there. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: The German foreign ministry isn't speaking publicly about its efforts to bring the children home. But Georg Mascolo, the journalist who headed a team that broke the story for several German public broadcasters and the daily Suddeutsche Zeitung, says there are at least six German children being held with their mothers in detention centers in Baghdad and Erbil.

GEORG MASCOLO: The youngest we know about is a little bit more than a year. And all of them are extremely young, so no kid older than 4 or 5 years. I think this is why it made somehow easy for the German government to decide to bring them home because of course there is a discussion, are they dangerous or not?

NELSON: He's referring to a longstanding worry here that people who left Germany to join ISIS and who survived the war and want to come home now might carry out attacks here. Mascolo says one of the mothers in the Erbil jail is pregnant, and that she and her other child live in a filthy cell with scores of other women and children. He says German diplomats who first met her and the other jailed Germans in July believe they and their children will be quickly deported. Then Iraq announced plans to put the women on trial, so they begged the German government to get their children out.

MASCOLO: They are probably traumatized by what they have seen and by the war, so they probably need good medical treatment once they're back home in Germany.

NELSON: It's likely to be months before that happens, Mascolo says. Besides waiting on the Iraqis, German authorities want to verify the children are in fact German. The youngest ones have never been to Germany before and are reported to have ISIS-generated birth certificates. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.