Berlin - Police early Thursday raided two-dozen sites in Berlin and Brandenburg in an effort to quell groups that support the terrorist Islamic State. The raids targeted 19 suspects, about half of them German nationals.
About 800 officers were involved in the raids. Some of the suspects frequented the radical Fussilet mosque that was closed in 2017 and was affiliated with Anis Amri, the driver of the truck in the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market attack.
Andreas Geisel, Berlin's interior minister, banned the Islamic Jama'atu association in Berlin, which is also known as Tauhid Berlin. The radical group glorified the Islamic State terrorist militia, especially on the internet - via Instagram, YouTube and Telegram - and called for the killing of Jews, people of other faiths and people without faith. They rejected Germany's constitution and called for Sharia law in Germany, Geisel said.
"They also called for cutting off the heads of police officers," Geisel said.
Moabit, Neukölln, Wedding and Tiergarten
One of the organisers behind Jama'atu Berlin is Salafist Jarrah B., who also goes by Abu Umar, authorities said. He and his immediate circle gave away Korans at Potsdamer Platz in hopes of recruiting new members for the radical Islamic scene.
The Märkisches Viertel housing estate in northern Berlin was the key focus of the raids, though officers also raided sites in Siemensstraße at S-Bahn Beusselstraße in Moabit as well as in Neukölln, Wedding and Tiergarten. Police officers in Brandenburg are also said to have searched apartments in connection with the ban.
The association supposedly did not operate its own mosque. Members met in private rooms. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution says Salafists are now acting much more reservedly in public and now meet in private, conspiratorial circles as well as over the internet. Private homes have replaced mosques as meeting places.
"We welcome today's measures," said Norbert Cioma, regional head of the police union (GdP). "Berlin continues to be the focus of international terrorism, which is why it is important to resolutely nip any extremist potential in the bud."
He also called for expanding current laws to allow police to better investigate suspects as they communicate with online messaging services.