A German national has been arrested in Turkey for allegedly trying to join the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units YPG militia, Turkish media reported.
Turkey alleges he was formerly in the German military, which the Bundeswehr has denied.
According to a report by Deutsche Welle (DW), German national Patrick Kraicker, 28, was arrested on March 14 in the Silopi district of southeastern Turkey while trying to cross the border to Syria through a restricted military zone to join Kurdish militants.
A search of his person and belongings found photographs and digital media related to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), according to the report.
Since the start of conflict in Syria, around 300 foreign fighters from Germany traveled to the region to join the PKK and associated outlawed groups, daily Express reported. Among them, 125 foreign fighters who received military training and took part in armed clashes returned to their homes in Germany, the daily claimed, citing security sources.
Johannes Dimroth, spokesman of the Federal Interior Ministry, said Wednesday that the country’s security agencies were taking all necessary measures against illegal activities of the PKK. “We are carefully monitoring the return of foreign fighters,” he told a news conference in Berlin, but also added that they have not recently observed a significant increase compared to previous years. “But, of course, we take this phenomena very seriously,” he added.
Dimroth said a total of 980 foreign fighters, including ISIL terrorists and other militants, are believed to have traveled from Germany to conflict areas in Syria and Iraq.
The YPG is the armed wing of the PYD, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization along with the PKK. After being questioned by regional counterterrorism authorities, a court arrested Kraicker on charges of “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.”
Local counterterrorism officials reportedly received a confession from Kraicker that he had served four years in the German military and wanted to join the PYD/YPG. He had reportedly been in Turkey twice before. However, a Bundeswehr spokesperson told DW that Kraicker was never in the German military.
Scores of Western volunteers are thought to be fighting alongside the YPG in Syria.
Tens of thousands of Turkish citizens are in prison or on trial under sweeping anti-terror laws. Turkish authorities often make up elaborate charges based on flimsy or fabricated evidence, which is then spread by the pro-government media. A number of dual German-Turkish nationals have been caught up in the crackdown, raising tensions between Ankara and Berlin. Germany has labeled at least five arrests as politically motivated.