Burak Karan Syria German Footballer
Former German footballer Burak Karan was killed in Syria (YouTube)

Germany has been shocked by the death of a former young and promising footballer, who was reportedly killed in the Syrian civil war after quitting football for jihad.

Burak Karan, 26, was killed during a bombing by government forces in the town of Azaz, near the Turkish border in October.

A few years ago he was playing football alongside some of Germany's current brightest football stars, including Real Madrid's Sami Khedira and Schalke 04's Kevin-Prince Boateng.

The son of Turkish immigrants, Karan, grew up in Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia, in industrial north western Germany.

A talented fullback, he played in the youth team of several Germany's Bundesliga clubs, such as Hamburg and Hannover 96.

Karan eventually made his way up to the national team, collecting a few caps for the U17 and U16 sides.

However football money and fame were not appealing to the young Muslim man.

"Money and a career were not important to him," his brother Mustafa told Bild newspaper.

Marcus Olm, his former coach at Hannover 96 said Karan was deeply religious and used to pray five-times a day in accordance to the teachings of Islam.

"No matter if we were training or on an away trip, five times a day he retired and prayed towards Mecca," Olm told Die Welt newspaper. "He was also a cheerful guy, one with who it was easy to have fun."

Karan began searching the internet for videos from warzones and ways to "help his [Muslim] brothers", his brother said.

"He was confused, and filled with sadness for the victims," Mustafa Karan said.

In 2008, aged 20, Karan quitted football and became more deeply involved in religion.

He started to hang out with a group of radical Islamists who gravitated around Wuppertal's mosque.

Among them was Emrah Erdogan, a German national of Turkish origin, who was arrested earlier this year in Tanzania in relation to the deadly terrorist attack at a shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya.

As Karan became more radicalised, German authorities added his name to a watch list.

In 2013 he arrived in Syria where he was later joined by his 23-year-old wife and two children, aged three and 10 months.

A YouTube video praising the rebellion against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, which was posted after Karan's death, shows photos of the former footballer sporting a long beard and holding a rifle.

"He had to leave his home to fight the injustice of Bashar al-Assad," the caption read. "May Allah accept him and protect his wife, children and family."

Mustafa Karan denied his brother had gone to Syria as a jihadi fighter but maintained he was carrying out charitable activities to help Syrian struggling in the two-year conflict.

"He was only armed to protect his vehicles," his brother said.

German authorities have opened an investigation to probe whether Karan supported a foreign terrorist network.

"This is shocking news to me," said Karan's former team mate Michael Görlitz. "It's a tragedy." 

Burak Karan
Burak Karan’s brother told German newspaper Bild the former footballer died in a bombing near the Turkish border (Courtesy of Bild.de)