In the summer of 2010, two young German Turks left Velbert, a town in the Rhineland, for Pakistan. Bünyamin Erdogan, 20, travelled with his older brother Emrah, then 23, to train with militants and fight in Afghanistan, according to multiple reports in German papers. Within months Bünyamin was dead – the first German killed by CIA drones in Pakistan. Emrah survived.
Bünyamin was born on November 4 1989 to Turkish parents and lived in Velbert, a town near the city of Wuppertal. His classmates and teachers told Die Welt he was a friendly, popular boy and a bright student, while neighbours described him as ‘a polite, well-brought-up boy’. They told Deutsche Welle his father had forced him to go to Pakistan to study Islamic scripture. They said: ‘He would not have go [sic] on this journey of his own accord.’
During their holidays, Bünyamin and Emrah would earn pocket money working on a farm run by Frederick Bleckmann and Ergin Celikel. They said in an interview with Bild that Bünyamin was a polite, hardworking and helpful person. He worked on their farm butchering lambs until 2010, the year he travelled to Pakistan with his brother Emrah.
By August 2010 the Erdogan brothers were in Pakistan; Emrah’s wife and son also travelled to Pakistan. The brothers rang their parents in Velbert on a number of occasions and the BKA, German federal police, recorded their calls. German weekly Stern later published the transcripts.
During two phone calls on August 27, Bünyamin spoke to his upset mother. She asked him to come home but he replied he could not as he would be sent to prison. His father complained the German police were following Yousuf, his younger brother, every time he left the house.
Over two more calls on August 30, Emrah told his mother Bünyamin was being trained to use weapons and said it could not be long until he was sent to fight. Their mother tried to convince Bünyamin to leave Waziristan, asking him instead to move to Turkey.
A graphic reconstruction of the house where Bunyamin was killed – Forensic Architecture
On September 3, Bünyamin told his parents he now had a gun and was doing well. On September 7, Emrah told his brother Yousuf that Bünyamin would no longer be marrying, because he was preparing to become a suicide bomber.
On September 28 2010, the BKA, Germany’s federal police, announced that the Erdogan brothers were on a list of the most dangerous Islamist terrorists in or from Germany. The authorities said the people on the list were capable of acts of extreme violence, from mass-murder to suicide bombing.
On October 5, Emrah again called Yousuf, this time to tell him of their brother Bünyamin’s death. He said that he had been killed in a drone strike, which hit at 7pm after the evening meal.
Emrah had stepped into another room while Bünyamin cleared the table outside or went outside for a cigarette while Bünyamin sat in a back room. Emrah said everything was covered in dust and the walls were broken. He said that he first looked for his wife and son, both of whom were alive. Then he found his brother among the dead. ‘The whole floor was covered in their blood,’ he told Yousuf.
Sources and Citations
Web fora and German government inquiry (Die Welt); Emrah Erdogan’s call to his parents (recorded by German police and published by Stern)