BERLIN (HAN) July 8.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News. A German court Thursday sentenced to jail five men for having joined theAl-Qaeda-linked Shabaab Islamist militant group in Somalia.
A sixth man who was jailed and tortured for months by the Shabaab on suspicion of being a Western spy received a suspended sentence.
The five main accused, all German citizens, received prison terms of between three-and-a-half and five years for membership of a foreign terrorist group, by the Frankfurt higher regional court.
They were identified only as Somali-origin brothers Abdullah, Abdulsalam and Abdiwahid W., the brother-in-law of one of them, Steven N., and a German-Tunisian friend, Mounir T.
The men, from the former German capital of Bonn, had travelled to Kenya in 2012 and then on to Somalia the following year, some taking their wives and children along.
After several months of combat training, the men most aged in their 20s, served for between 13 and 18 months on various Shabaab bases and combat positions, the court said in a statement.
However, in July 2014 they opted to leave, upset with the Shabaab’s “rigid treatment” of foreign fighters, said the court.
Three of them then contacted the German embassy in Nairobi and were arrested when they flew back to Frankfurt.
The two others — Abdiwahid W. and Mounir T. — had planned to travel on to Syria to join the Islamic State group but were arrested in Kenya and deported to Germany.
The sixth man — also a German with Somali roots, named as Omar Ahmed D. — had travelled via Kenya to Somalia in 2013.
He entered a so-called Shabaab clearing house there but raised suspicions by often leaving and asking many questions, said the statement.
The militants thought he was a Western spy and locked him up and “abused and tortured” him for months before letting him go.
Having never joined the Shabaab, he was arrested in Kenya and deported in 2014 to Germany, where he has been studying since.
The Shabaab is fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu and has committed attacks elsewhere in East Africa.
Among the deadliest have been the 2013 assault on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi that killed at least 67 people, and on Kenya’s Garissa university in April 2015 that claimed at least 148 lives.