German police raid group over alleged links to Iran-backed Hezbollah
Frankfurt, Germany (AFP) - Hundreds of police Thursday raided properties across Germany over suspected links to the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, authorities said, as Berlin moves to stem a rash of anti-Semitism amid the Israel-Hamas war.
The raids targeting 54 sites came after Germany banned Hamas activities and related organisations, in the wake of the deadly October 7 attack carried out by the Palestinian Islamist group in Israel.
"We have the Islamist scene in our sights," said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.
"At a time when numerous Jews feel particularly threatened" Germany will "not tolerate Islamist propaganda or anti-Semitic incitement hostile to Israel," she added.
Germany considers Hezbollah a "Shiite terrorist organisation" and in 2020 banned Hezbollah from carrying out activities on its soil.
Thursday's operation targeted the Hamburg Islamic Centre and five affiliated groups, with police searching properties in six of Germany's 16 states including Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Hesse, Berlin, Baden-Wuerttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia.
The Hamburg Islamic Centre runs the Imam Ali Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, and calls have been growing in recent years for authorities to close it down because of its alleged links to Iran.
Founded by Iranian immigrants in 1953, the Hamburg Islamic Centre had already been under surveillance by domestic intelligence for some time.
The interior ministry believes its activities are "aimed at spreading the revolutionary concept of (Iran's) supreme leaders, something that is suspected to violate Germany's constitutional order".
No arrests were made during the raids, which were carried out to secure evidence on the suspicion that the Hamburg centre and the affiliated groups back the activities of Hezbollah.
Welcoming Thursday's operation, Hamburg's interior minister Andy Grote said he believed that the centre "will be closed in the near future".
Germany, like other Western powers, is working to prevent Israel's war on Hamas from turning into a wider conflict, including the involvement of Lebanon-based Hezbollah.
Since the October 7 Hamas attacks which prompted Israel's war in Gaza, Israel has also traded fire with militant groups including Hezbollah in southern Lebanon on a near-daily basis.