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Germany bans 'Shia terrorist organisation' Hezbollah, with police raiding mosques

Police raid a Berlin mosque linked to Hezbollah after Germany banned the militant group [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 April, 2020

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Germany has banned domestic Hezbollah's activities, ordering police to raid mosques and associations linked to the Lebanese movement.
Germany has classified the political wing of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah as a "terrorist organisation", the country's interior ministry said on Thursday morning, as police raided mosques across the country allegedly linked to the Shia-Muslim movement.

A spokesman for German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced on Twitter that Germany has "prohibited the operations of the Shia terrorist organisation Hezbollah".

He also announced police raids across the country, adding that the rule of law "can also act in times of crisis".

Until now, Germany had only outlawed Hezbollah's military wing while tolerating its political section, which is in-line with current EU policy.

Dozens of police and special forces stormed mosques and associations linked to Hezbollah in the German cities of Bremen, Berlin, Dortmund and Muenster in the early hours of Thursday 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.

Although Hezbollah has no official presence in Germany, security forces estimate it has roughly 1,000 members in the country.

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

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

He also recalled that Hezbollah has openly called for "the violent destruction" of the Israeli state.

"It's part of our historic responsibility that we use all means under the rule of law to act against this," he said, in a nod to Germany's responsibility for the Holocaust during World War II.

The US and Israel, which have long designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group, welcomed the decision.

US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell said that Washington "applauds" Berlin's decision and called on "all European Union member states to take similar action".

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz praised what he called "a significant step in the global fight against terrorism". He too urged the European Union "to do the same".

The mood began shifting in Berlin when parliament passed a resolution last December, urging 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 Hezbollah symbols or hold gatherings, and that the movement's funds can be frozen.

Hezbollah sympathisers had in recent years waved their flag at the anti-Israel al-Quds rally that is controversially held in Berlin each year.

Hezbollah, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's civil war, is seen by Israel as an Iranian proxy, seeking to extend the Islamic Republic's military reach in the region.

Israeli warplanes have carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria over the past few years against what Israel says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets.

Hezbollah was established in 1982 during Lebanon's civil war. 

It is now a major political party in the country, where it holds a majority in parliament along with its allies.

Israel and Hezbollah also fought a 2006 war.

Last week, two alleged former Syrian intelligence officers accused of crimes against humanity went on trial in Germany in the first ever court case over state-sponsored torture by Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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