She says she tried again and again to persuade him to turn back. "But as crazy as it may sound, he was there with his heart and soul." And then the video surfaced. "That was the moment when he really became a stranger to me," Sabine says. In September 2016, exactly one year after Christian and Yasmina had left Germany, a video was published on the IS-linked online platform Furat Media. In it, Christian, who had since named himself Abu Issa al-Almani, tells his story.

He talks about his disease, the meaning of life and the answers he found in Islam. He also openly calls for attacks in Europe.

In addition to the sequences in which he looks straight into the camera, there are disturbing images in which the chained hand of a man can be seen — and a descending axe. Whether it was Christian who chops off the man's hand is unclear. But it is he who gives the tortured man a kiss on the head in the next shot.

IS fighter Christian Lappe (photo: private)
How Christian became the jihadist Abu Issa Al-Almani: Sabine Lappe avoids the question of whether Christian also killed people: "let me put it this way: he didn't just peel the potatoes for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He was totally behind what he was doing. And that makes it so infinitely difficult for me. Christian wanted to go down in history and die for the right thing as a German Muslim"

Pregnancy test presented on a Kalashnikov

For Sabine, the world collapsed when she saw the film: "I can't understand how you can do something like this. That's simply wrong. It's not in the Koran, not in any surah (chapter)." When she confronted him in their next telephone conversation, he called her an infidel. "He accused me of not having understood my faith correctly."

She finally lost her last bit of hope that Christian would one day return repentant. "He would have maybe gotten 10 to 15 years in prison, of course." Absolutely appropriate, she believes, "But in the cell I could have at least visited him." During the interview, Sabine always talks about her son Christian. She does not use the name Abu Issa al-Almani. "For me he is, and remains, Christian."

She avoids the question of whether Christian killed people. "Let me put it this way: he didn't just peel the potatoes for [IS leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi. He was totally behind what he was doing. And that makes it so infinitely difficult for me. Christian wanted to go down in history and die for the right thing as a German Muslim."

Then something unexpected happened. One day, she received a photo via WhatsApp: a radiant Christian, next to her daughter-in-law Yasmina, fully veiled. Then a second picture came through: a Kalashnikov rifle with a positive pregnancy test placed on its magazine.

Sabine Lappe says she felt nauseous at the sight. "The two of them were clearly happy and proud. But the prospect of becoming a father made Christian even more radical."

Death in the desert sand

On 1 August  2017, Sabine spoke to her son for the last time. "He said that he was returning to the battlefield and that he loved me." She remembers that she had a very bad feeling, a dark premonition. Christian felt it too, she is convinced. He had provided for Yasmina. In case something happened to him, Yasmina should marry an Iraqi fighter of his choice; everything had already been discussed.

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