Germany to strip IS fighters of citizenship

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks during the presentation of a new 2 Euro commemorative coin in Berlin, Germany, February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners have agreed a plan to strip some Germans who fight for the Islamic State militant group 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 U.S.-backed forces are poised to take the last patch of territory from Islamic State 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 Iraqi forces and U.S.-backed fighters in Syria.

An Interior Ministry spokeswoman told a news conference that three criteria must be met to allow the government to denaturalize Germans who take up arms for the Islamist group.

Such individuals must have a second citizenship and be adults. They would be stripped of their citizenship should they fight for Islamic State 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.

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

Germany said it would take back fighters only if the suspects have consular access.

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

The case of Shamima Begum highlighted the security, legal and ethical dilemmas facing European governments dealing with citizens who had sworn allegiance to a group determined to destroy the West.

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Susan Fenton and Ed Osmond)