The number of questions raised by this story are rather hard to wrap your brain around, but the lede alone is enough to give us pause. It was reported yesterday that a story had been playing out in Arapahoe County, Colorado since Friday which quickly went from a missing persons report to an international incident. Three teenage girls allegedly packed their things, left home, went to the airport and flew all the way to Germany, where they nearly made it on to a connecting flight to Turkey. Their claimed objective was to go fight alongside the terrorists of ISIS.
The FBI tracked down three American teenage girls in Germany while they were en route to Syria to join militant groups, a law enforcement official told ABC News today.
The girls, who are from the Denver area, were trying “to fulfill what they believe is some vision that has been put out on a slick media campaign” by radical groups in Syria, including ISIS, the official said…
The girls were persuaded to travel overseas and were in contact with someone in Germany, the official said, noting that someone close to them notified authorities.
They were turned around and sent back to the United States, the official said, noting that because they are minors it remains unclear whether they will be charged with anything or be “arrested.”
The ABC article describes the girls as “disaffected youth” who are being radicalized, but that doesn’t sound like a satisfactory explanation. One of the first questions to be answered is, how did these kids manage the financial and logistical requirements to make this trip in the first place? Those plane tickets had to be expensive, but if they had a contact in Germany working with them, I suppose they could have been paid for at the destination point. The two sisters are originally from Somalia and the third child is from Ethiopia, so they may have already had passports. (While not being identified, they are described as being “Americans” so I assume they have citizenship.)
Getting on the plane apparently wouldn’t be a problem either, it seems. American Airlines rules indicate that children under fifteen years of age must travel with another passenger at least 16 years of age or they will be considered Unaccompanied Minors. All three of these girls were fifteen and over, so no problem there, I guess. And they were reported missing the same day they left, so I suppose this wasn’t done with the consent of the family.
So how did they become sufficiently radicalized that they saw leaving their country and flying off to go fight with a group of people who routinely sell children into “marriage” or sexual slavery as a good idea? If they have access to ISIS videos on the web, then they also can watch the news and presumably know what ISIS is up to. I find it hard to believe that they came to this state of mind entirely on their own, though I suppose it’s possible.
I’d like to see an interview with the parents and neighbors, personally. This sounds like a deeper problem than disaffected, bored youth being led astray via their laptops and cell phones, and could signal something worse in the home and/or the community. But since their identity is being protected because of their age, we may not even find out that much.