Sankt Johann is a small village in the south west German state, Rhineland-Palatinate. Something of a rural idyll, its 800 residents live between vineyards in the shadow of a 14th century Gothic church. And yet, as SPIEGEL TV reports, this weekend it was the scene of police raids on two Islamic State-linked suspects living in refugee housing.
Prosecutors’ office spokesman Michael Neuhaus said the two men targeted by the operation are “suspected of taking part in the Syrian civil war as members of a foreign terrorist organisation”. He said there were “no immediate indications that a concrete attack was planned” but declined to give any further details.
Two houses in the village are used to house Syrian refugees, but among the opponents of the Assad regime living there SPIEGEL TV tracked down a suspected commander of the Islamic State terror group after tip offs from other Syrian activists. They had identified him as a man called Bassam, a notorious commander said to be responsible for the deaths of dozens of people.
A 32-year-old man, he allegedly fought in the ranks of Islamic State fighters in the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor before leaving via Turkey to seek asylum in Germany. Starting his fighting career with rebel jihadists in Al Kasra, the man in question is understood to have joined Sunni Islamist militias fighting the Syrian Government as part of the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, before graduating to the even more extreme Salafi jihadists of Islamic State.
His original ambition had been to be a suicide bomber, but his brother had used his position as a Sharia judge to secure him his officer’s role. In late summer last year Bassam was captured at a checkpoint north of Aleppo by Free Syrian Army soldiers following intelligence that he was fleeing to Turkey with tens of thousands of dollars in cash. For reasons unknown he was released after 20 days, with a memory card for a telephone holding masses of Islamic State propaganda but without his money.
Incredibly, German security services were said to have been oblivious to his presence in Germany since last autumn until SPIEGEL TV’s research alerted them to it.
For his part Bassam denies ever being an Islamic State fighter, and says he has nothing more to do with his brother. He also claims to have no idea why he was captured by soldiers from the Free Syrian Army.
For now he wants to concentrate on his professional future, telling SPIEGEL TV: “I want to learn German and work as a cook.”
As Breitbart London recently reported, German security forces have received more than 100 tip-offs that Islamic State fighters may be hiding among migrants currently staying in the country.