BERLIN – German authorities on Tuesday arrested five men who allegedly aided the Islamic State group in Germany by recruiting members and providing financial and logistical help.
The federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement that the men were arrested on suspicion of supporting a terrorist organization. The arrests were made in a series of raids in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the northern state of Lower Saxony.
The country’s justice minister, Heiko Maas, called the arrests “an important blow to the extremist scene in Germany.”
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said it was critical to prevent people from becoming “so radicalized that they are in danger of becoming terrorists.”
“We don’t want terrorism to take place in Germany,” he said. “We don’t want terrorism to be exported from Germany.”
One of the raids was in the Lower Saxony city of Hildesheim, which is a known centre for ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafists and where a mosque was raided during the summer.
The prosecutor’s office, which handles all terrorism cases, said the suspects weren’t known to have links to IS suspect Jaber Albakr, who killed himself in prison in October two days after being arrested on suspicion of plotting to attack a Berlin airport with homemade explosives.
The five men arrested Tuesday are suspected of recruiting young Muslims in Germany, and raising funds to send them to Syria to join IS, prosecutors said. They’re also accused of providing logistical support for the trips.
One of the suspects, a 32-year-old Iraqi citizen identified as Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah A., who also goes by the alias of Abu Walaa, is accused of being the ringleader of the group. He openly supported the IS group, attended several extremist events as a speaker and approved the departure of those willing to go to Syria, prosecutors said.
His last name wasn’t provided in line with German privacy laws.
Two other suspects, identified as 50-year-old Turkish citizen Hasan C. and 36-year-old German-Serbian citizen Boban S., were allegedly in charge of teaching Arabic and “radical Islamic content” to recruits.
The state interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Ralf Jaeger, said the profile of the suspects’ targets for recruitment was almost always the same.
“He’s young, male, he’s experienced failure, and has the problem of not feeling accepted by society and feeling excluded,” Jaeger said.
A 27-year-old German citizen, Mahmoud O., and a 26-year-old from Cameroon, identified as Ahmed F.Y., are suspected of helping to organize the recruits’ departure to Syria.
“The network verifiably trafficked one young man and his family to the ‘IS’ in Syria,” the statement says.
The suspects will be brought before a judge later on Tuesday and on Wednesday, the prosecutor’s office said.
Also on Tuesday, a higher regional court in Frankfurt sentenced a 30-year-old German citizen to 8 1/2 years in prison for membership in the Islamic State group and war crimes. The court said the man, who was identified only as Abdelkarim E., fought with IS in Syria in 2013 and 2014 and participated in disfiguring the body of a Syrian soldier. He recorded footage of the combat operations and also of how the dead man’s ears and nose were cut off, the court heard.
David Rising and Frank Jordans contributed to this report.