Terrorism

Germany bans all Hizbullah activities on its soil

By AFP

image

A police officer stands in front of the Al-Irschad Mosque during a raid on April 30th in Berlin, as dozens of police and special forces stormed mosques and associations linked to Hizbullah in Bremen, Berlin, Dortmund and Muenster in the early hours of the morning. [Odd Andersen/AFP]

Germany on Thursday (April 30th) completely banned Lebanon's Iran-backed Hizbullah militia from carrying out activities on its soil.

Like the EU, Germany had until now only outlawed Hizbullah's military wing while tolerating its political wing.

But the German interior ministry said it now considered the entire movement a "Shia terrorist organisation".

"Hizbullah is a terrorist organisation deemed responsible for numerous attacks and kidnappings worldwide," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Germany's Bild daily.

The interior minister "has banned the operation of the group" in Germany with immediate effect, his spokesman tweeted.

"Even in times of crisis the rule of law is upheld," he wrote.

Raids were taking place in several places across the country, he added.

Dozens of police and special forces stormed mosques and associations linked to Hizbullah in Bremen, Berlin, Dortmund and Muenster in the early hours of the morning, German media reported.

The Al-Irshad mosque in Berlin was sealed off with at least 16 police vans parked outside, an AFP photographer saw. Masked police officers were seen walking in and out of the mosque.

No longer a safe haven

Although Hizbullah has no official presence in Germany, security forces estimate it has roughly a thousand members in the country.

They are thought to use Germany as a safe haven to make plans, recruit sympathisers and raise funds, including through criminal activities.

The group's "criminal activities and plannings for attacks are also taking place on German soil", Seehofer told Bild.

The US has long designated Hizbullah as a terrorist group and urged allies to follow suit.

US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell welcomed Berlin's change in stance and called on "all EU member states to take similar action".

Britain outlawed Hizbullah's political wing last year, making membership of the militia or inviting support for it a crime.

The German parliament passed a resolution last December that urged the government to ban the group from operating in Germany altogether.

The interior ministry's prohibition order means the group's supporters are no longer allowed to display Hizbullah symbols or hold gatherings, and that funds can be frozen.

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