German police on Tuesday launched dawn raids at 200 sites across 10 states, including mosques, apartments and offices, as the government banned a group it accused of trying to recruit fighters for the Islamic State.
The group called The True Religion (Die wahre Religion) was banned by interior minister Thomas de Maiziere, said a ministry spokeswoman.
She said the sweeping raids in 10 states, including North Rhine-Westphalia in the west, Hamburg in the north and Baden-Wuerttemberg in the south-west, began at dawn.
The group is suspected of propagating hate, she said, adding many people who have travelled to Syria had contact with it.
The group is also known for its controversial programme called “Lies!”, which distributes copies of the Quran in German. Experts say the translation is a particular strict version from the original Arabic text.
“The message to the radical Islamist scene is clear: we do not tolerate fanatics who try to radicalise young people and send them to jihad,” said Peter Beuth, interior minister for Hesse state, where raids were carried out.
“By banning this organisation, a major source of radicalisation has been eradicated nationwide. Those who spread hate messages can’t hide behind freedom of religion, the interior ministry has underlined this with the ban today,” he said.
Among the sites raided were more than 200 offices, mosques and apartments of members and supporters of the group. The Dpa news agency reported the domestic intelligence service had warned Die wahre Religion glorifies jihad and allegedly helps recruit people to send them to Syria and Iraq to fight with the Islamic State.
The interior ministry spokeswoman described Die wahre Religion as a mobilising network for the Islamic State, though she said there was no indication it was planning attacks itself.
Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere believed the group breached Germany’s Constitution and incited hatred, she said. He was due to make a statement on the arrests and the ban later on Tuesday.
There was no immediate statement from the group.