The number of Germans fighting alongside Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq has increased sharply to 550 and around 180 have returned, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday.

“We are concerned about the high number of departures. Especially in the last six weeks, it has risen further,” Hans-Georg Maassen told Welt am Sonntag.

“By now we are counting 550 people, that is how many have left Germany to go to Syria and Iraq,” he added. The previous number was 450 people.

Around 60 of them have been killed during fighting, with at least nine killing themselves in suicide attacks, Maassen said. “That is a sad success for the Islamist propaganda.”

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