Around 400 German police conducted raids at a mosque and eight apartments in a “hotbed” of radical Islam near Hannover. It came as police near Stuttgart arrested a 15-year-old who they believe was planning a mass shooting.
The raids took place in Hildesheim, a town which Lower Saxony Interior Minister Boris Pistorius described as “a hotbed of radical Salafist” activity. He said that up to 400 police and special forces took part in the operations, though no figures were released regarding how many arrests were made.
“The German-speaking Islamic circle (DIK) in Hildesheim is a nationwide hot-spot of the radical Salafist scene that Lower Saxony security authorities have been monitoring for a long time,” the state official said, as quoted by Reuters.
He said he wants to ban the DIK, which he blames for radicalizing German Muslims and influencing some to want to travel to the Middle East to join up with terrorist organizations such as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
Pistorius said the raid followed months of planning, as the DIK had established Hildesheim as their main base in Lower Saxony. He also said the radical Islamists were guilty of giving speeches calling for “hate against non-believers.”
“We will not put up with Salafist associations and their backers flouting our rules and bringing our rule of law into question and convincing young people that they want to join the so-called IS,” Pistorius said.
The special operations came as police in the south of the country confirmed on Wednesday evening that they had arrested a 15-year-old boy near Stuttgart. The teenager, who hails from Ludwigsburg, had allegedly been in contact with Ali David Sonboly, who killed nine people during a shooting spree in Munich on July 22.
Police said they found “a large number of small-caliber weapons, several knives and daggers” in the 15-year-old’s possession. Authorities initially said they believed the boy was planning to carry out a shooting spree at his school, but later retracted that statement, Deutsche Welle reported.
Law enforcement officers were given a tip off about the teenager after a private individual who had been carrying out research on the 15-year-old published photos and drawings that suggested that he could have been planning an attack.
Police say they found “extensive evidence, including a larger number of small-caliber cartridges, several knives and daggers, evacuation plans of his school, and a large amount of chemicals, materials and instructions for making explosives,” according to The Local.
The boy has been admitted to a psychiatric facility, and police have seized his computers for further analysis.
Germany has been rocked by a string of recent attacks. On Sunday, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee who was facing deportation to Bulgaria blew himself up after being refused access to a music festival. The explosion injured 15 passersby, but did not cause any deaths.
That same day, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee was arrested after killing a pregnant woman and wounding two people with a machete in the city of Reutlingen, near Stuttgart.
On Friday, an 18-year-old German-Iranian gunman killed nine people in Munich after going on a shooting spree in an attack he had planned for a year. Meanwhile, a 17-year-old who had sought asylum in Germany was shot dead by police last week after wounding five people with an ax near Wurzburg.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has cut short her holiday to address the problems, which critics say have been caused by her open-door policy which saw over a million refugees – mainly from Syria and Iraq – arrive in Germany in 2015. She has rejected calls to change the policy.
“The terrorists want to make us lose sight of what is important to us, break down our cohesion and sense of community as well as inhibiting our way of life, our openness and our willingness take in people who are in need,” she said, as quoted by Reuters.
“They see hatred and fear between cultures and they see hatred and fear between religions. We stand decisively against that,” she added.
However, Willy Wimmer, former state secretary of the German Christian Democratic Party (CDU), told RT that Merkel must take the blame for wanting to “destroy our country” by allowing unchecked mass immigration.
“She [Merkel] has an obligation to defend our borders and defend our people. That is the main obligation she has. Therefore, what was the reason last year to open our borders? There is no country worldwide that did similar things,”Wimmer said.