German raids: Police target DWR Islamist group

Policewomen walk towards a warehouse in Pulheim, western Germany, on November 15, 2016 Image copyright AFP

German police have carried out nationwide dawn raids on more than 200 mosques, apartments and offices associated with an Islamist group.

The raids came as the government banned the group, DWR (True Religion), which it said was trying to recruit fighters for the so-called Islamic State (IS).

Up to 900 people are estimated to have joined IS in Syria or Iraq via Germany.

The interior ministry said there was no indication that the DWR group was planning attacks itself.

"We don't want terrorism in Germany... and we don't want to export terrorism," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said.

He added that the ban was also a measure to help protect peaceful Islam in the country.

Image copyright AFP

Swoop on Salafist group - by Damien McGuinness, BBC News, Berlin

Until this morning this organisation, with hundreds of members across the country, was seen as the largest jihadi network in Germany.

And many people here will already have seen it in action on German streets. That's because, for the past 10 years, its members have been distributing millions of free copies of the Koran in city centres.

That of course was not the problem. The interior minister was clear this morning that Islam has a strong place in German society. And Germany's civil liberty laws mean that its rare, and difficult, to ban organisations that appear to be religious.

But officials say the group was perverting Islam, and using the distribution of free copies of the Koran as a front to recruit and radicalise people to fight for so-called Islamic State.

It's thought at least 140 people who have left Germany to fight for IS in Syria or Iraq were connected to this group. Today's raids and the ban aim to break up that network and tackle one of the root causes of radicalisation.

"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 some of the raids took place.

"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."

There was no immediate statement from the DWR group.