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Germany announces measures to strip Islamic State fighters of citizenship

Those targeted must be adults, have a second citizenship and would only lose citizenship if they fight for IS after new rules come into effect
Donald Trump last month urged Britain, France and Germany to take back more than 800 captured IS fighters (AFP)

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners have agreed on a plan to strip some Germans who fight for Islamic State (IS) of their citizenship, an interior ministry spokeswoman said on Monday.

More than 1,000 Germans have left their country for war zones in the Middle East since 2013 and the government has been debating how to deal with them as US-backed forces are poised to take the last patch of territory from IS in Syria.

About a third have returned to Germany, another third are believed to have died and the rest are believed to be still in Iraq and Syria, including some detained by Iraq and the US-backed forces in Syria.

The spokeswoman told a news conference that three criteria must be met to allow the government to denaturalise Germans who took up arms for the group.

Such individuals must have a second citizenship, be adults and would only be stripped of their citizenship should they fight for IS after the new rules come into effect.

The compromise ended a dispute over the issue between conservative Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and SPD Justice Minister Katarina Barley.

Until now, German law did not allow for the deprivation of citizenship of German "foreign fighters", but the new measure expands the current legislation to include affiliation to groups abroad.

Ethical dilemmas

US President Donald Trump last month urged Britain, France and Germany to take back more than 800 captured IS fighters and put them on trial.

Berlin said it would take back fighters only if the suspects have consular access, the Reuters news agency reported.

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Germany's government is the latest in Europe to exploit a provision in a 1961 UN convention to strip its IS suspects of their citizenship where rights to a second nationality are established.

Britain last month revoked the citizenship of a teenager who had left London when she was aged 15 to join IS in Syria. 

Shamima Begum, who gave birth to a child in the war-torn country in February, was deemed to be eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship through her parents, despite having never lived in the country. Bangladesh, however, has rejected the notion.

Begum's case has highlighted the security, legal and ethical dilemmas facing European governments dealing with citizens who had sworn allegiance to IS.