German woman ‘ran ISIS fund-raising operation’ from Syria refugee camp

The woman, named only as Monika K, was arrested on Friday on her return to Germany

Children gather outside their tents at Al Hol camp, which houses ISIS family members. AP

A German woman faces terrorism charges after allegedly running a secret ISIS fund-raising operation for extremists detained at Syria’s Al Hol refugee camp.

The woman, named only as Monika K, is accused of running the donation network via messenger services, while being held at the camp for most of 2019, before she was smuggled out to marry another ISIS member.

She continued to operate the fund-raising campaign while the pair lived at Idlib, 500 kilometres to the west, German prosecutors say.

The goal was to get other ISIS supporters out of the camp, said a spokeswoman for the German public prosecutor’s office.

Monika K was captured again in September 2020 as she made her way back to Al Hol to make contact with ISIS members.

She was held in Turkish custody until she was returned to Germany on Friday, eight years after she first signed up to ISIS in Syria.

She was arrested at Frankfurt Airport on suspicion of membership of a terrorist organisation abroad.

The prosecutor’s office said that the woman first travelled from Germany to Syria, via Egypt, with her then husband in 2013. The pair signed up to ISIS within months.

Her husband died during fighting in 2015 and she went on to marry two other ISIS fighters and lived with them in various parts of Syria and Iraq.

She was arrested by Kurdish forces at the start of 2019 and taken to the Al Hol camp in northeast Syria, before she was smuggled out in December, said the prosecutor’s office.

“In the camp, Monika K ran a donation network for female ISIS members,” it said. “She used various messenger services to solicit funds for ISIS members in refugee camps.”

Hundreds of Europeans who joined ISIS have been held in Kurdish-run camps in northern Syria after being moved there following the group's battlefield defeat.

Many are wives and children of fighters, leaving governments with difficult decisions to make about repatriating them or refusing their return because of security concerns.

The arrest of Monika K is only the latest of a string of cases in Germany involving women allegedly affiliated to ISIS who have been brought back to the country.

Germany brought home eight women and 23 children in October last year during a joint operation with Denmark.

Germany's foreign minister at the time, Heiko Maas said: "The mothers will have to answer for their acts."

They included a German-Iranian mother who was arrested on charges of joining a women-only ISIS combat unit after taking her two children to Syria.

Other women and children were repatriated in 2020 during a joint operation with Finland.

Updated: March 14, 2022, 1:09 PM