Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere says some 550 Germans have so far left the country to join the ISIL terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.
“We estimate 550. Just a few days ago we had 450,” Maiziere told German television channel Phoenix on Friday, adding, “These young people… were radicalized in Germany, within this society. That’s why prevention must be accompanied by repression.”
Most of the German nationals who have joined the ISIL terrorists are men, although some women have also travelled to the two war-torn countries.
Maiziere further said that officials in Germany are watching some 230 more people who may pose a threat on German soil.
“We cannot exclude [the possibility], and in certain cases it’s actually quite possible, that they are preparing an attack,” he said.
In recent months, thousands of people from Europe are said to have travelled to Iraq and Syria to join the ISIL militants, who currently control large areas of the two countries.
According to an October report by the UN Security Council, 15,000 foreigners have flocked to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the ISIL or other terrorist groups.
European countries, including Germany, have repeatedly expressed concern over the ISIL’s influence across the continent. Authorities fear that the European militants will use their combat skills against their countries upon returning home.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve recently said the number of French nationals leaving the country to join the ISIL militant group in Syria and Iraq shows an 82-percent rise in 2014, noting that the increase has put about 375 French citizens “in the theater of operations in Syria and Iraq.”