German police swoop on offices of Islamist groups

24th April 2008, Comments 0 comments

The inquiry did not allege terrorism but the slightly lesser charges of sedition and forming a criminal group with aims against constitutional order since September 2005.

Neu-Ulm, Germany -- German police searched 16 premises Wednesday associated with a radical Islamist group, which they suspect of recruiting Muslim residents of Germany for an anti-Western jihad.

None of the nine suspects were arrested but police seized papers. The nine, aged 25 to 47, all have German nationality, though most belong to ethnic minorities, the police said.

The inquiry did not allege terrorism but the slightly lesser charges of sedition and forming a criminal group with aims against constitutional order since September 2005.

The inquiry is a continuation of a police war against a group formerly known as the Multi Kultur Haus (MKH) in Neu-Ulm, Bavaria state, which was reportedly also under surveillance in the past by US anti-terrorism agencies.

MKH formally dissolved itself last year to forestall a prohibition order, but police suspect its members remain covertly active.

Security sources said the nine, two of whom were imams, had published internet statements and held seminars on Islam that were aimed at firing up Muslims, among them German converts, to volunteer for an armed jihad, or holy war.

More than 130 police took part in the raids on homes, clubrooms and a publishing office around Germany under the direction of a Bavarian prosecutor. Locations raided were in Neu-Ulm's twin town of Ulm in Baden-Wuerttemberg state, Sindelfingen, Bonn, Berlin and Leipzig.

Sources in Berlin said the offices of as-Sunna publishing house in the capital were searched.

The community of Muslims in the southern metropolitan area of Ulm has repeatedly been raided in recent years during anti-terrorism inquiries. Although MKH has dissolved, the associated Islamic Information Centre of Ulm (IIZ) remains active.

Last year, German police arrested a trio of men in a country village, Oberschledorn, charging that they were plotting a terrorist attack. Two were German converts to Islam, one of them a man from Ulm.

Police said Wednesday the Ulm group was suspected of radical opposition to "a freedom-oriented way of life and the democratic order," adopting an ideology of "intolerance and violence against infidels" and praising "martyrdom."

Police inquiries into alleged radicalism have stirred resentment among German Muslims.

A newspaper in the western city of Cologne recently printed leaked documents from an inquiry into a national group, the VIKZ association of Islamic Cultural Centres. Police condemned the leak and said the inquiry did not lead to any charges.

At a news conference Wednesday in Cologne, VIKZ deputy president Mustafa Imal rejected news-media allegations that the VIKZ was anti-democratic or anti-Semitic.

"The VIKZ is loyal to the constitution and supports this country's society," he said.

DPA

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