Last month in Baiji, Iraq, a 23-year-old German who’s being referred to as Yannick N. died in a suicide bomb attack for the Islamic State.
The story of a young German man willing to fight and die for the Islamic State has become disturbingly routine, but to experts and police, the tale of Yannick N. is especially shocking because of what the former Freiburg resident didn’t possess.
He didn’t have close family or friends, the most common way Islamic State fighters are recruited. He didn’t have Internet access and wasn’t known to have ever used social media sites believed critical to Islamic State recruiters. He didn’t have a home mosque, or a background in Islam, which again would make him a lower-risk target. He was homeless.
Instead, Yannick N., who was learning disabled, appears to have been approached in person and to have been recruited in what amounted to a cold call by radical Islamists targeting a vulnerable person by offering to give him what they had and he wanted – protection, a future and a family.
A year after that initial approach, he drove a truck filled with 1.5 tons of explosives into an Iraqi military checkpoint.
The news in Europe is full of such stories of people vanishing from here who end up there. Last weekend, a Hamburg father killed himself after learning that his teenage daughter and her friend had sneaked away and into Syria. British news media this week were reporting that three British sisters and their nine children are feared to have slipped into Syria after making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
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