German Authorities Raid Over 200 Sites of Islamic Group

BERLIN (AP) -
A German police van stands in front of a house in Berlin November 15, 2016. German police launched dawn raids on mosques, apartments and offices in ten German states on Tuesday, and the government banned a group it accused of trying to recruit fighters for Islamic State, the interior ministry said. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
A German police van stands in front of a house in Berlin Tuesday, as German police launched dawn raids on mosques, apartments and offices in ten German states. (Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski_

Hundreds of police officers searched about 190 offices, mosques and apartments of members and supporters of the Islamic group The True Religion as the German government announced a ban of the organization Tuesday.

Police raided places in 60 cities in western Germany and also in Berlin seizing documents and files, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. No one was detained.

The group — also known as “Read!” — has been distributing German-language copies of the Quran across the country. The interior minister said that more than 140 youths had traveled to Syria and Iraq to join terrorists there after having participated in the group’s campaigns in Germany.

“The translations of the Quran are being distributed along with messages of hatred and unconstitutional ideologies,” de Maiziere told reporters in Berlin. “Teenagers are being radicalized with conspiracy theories.”

The sight of young men in long robes and bushy beards handing out German copies of the Quran has been common in downtown and shopping areas across Germany for several years.

The ban of the group comes a week after security authorities arrested five men who allegedly aided the Islamic State terror group in Germany by recruiting members and providing financial and logistical help. The recent operations suggest that the German government is trying to clamp down hard on radical Islamists.

The German interior minister stressed that the ban does not restrict freedom of religion in Germany or the peaceful practice of Islam in any way, but that the group had glorified terrorism and the fight against the German constitution in videos and meetings.

“We don’t want terrorism in Germany … and we don’t want to export terrorism,” de Maiziere said, adding that the ban was also a measure to help protect peaceful Islam in the country.