In a move against terror and extremism, German authorities banned three ultraconservative Islamic groups Wednesday and later announced they had thwarted a suspected assassination attempt by Islamic extremists against a popular far-right politician.
One of the banned groups put out the Internet propaganda videos well-known for inspiring the terrorist who killed two American airmen at the Frankfurt airport in 2011, according to the country’s domestic intelligence chief.
In the early morning hours, police raided 21 apartments and one meeting hall belonging to DawaFFM, Islamic Audios, and al-Nussrah—all of which live and breathe by the diehard conservative Salafi interpretation of Islam, and try to persuade others to do the same.
The groups are largely known for recruitment, fundraising, and propaganda, including threatening videos that call people to make war against those who do not believe in their version of Islam, said Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence service.
"These organizations are oriented against the basic right to freedom of religion—against Christians and other faiths including Shiites," Maassen said.
In one DawaFFM YouTube posting, Maassen said an Arabic speaker told Shiite Muslims: "If the Prophet Muhammad heard your words he'd hack off your hands and feet and banish you from the earth."
In a seemingly unrelated operation, police took four men into custody overnight on suspicion of planning to murder the leader of a far-right fringe party known as pro-NRW. The men are considered part of the Salafis, according to police.
The Salafi movement in Germany has seen dramatic growth in recent years, attracting both Muslims and converts, predominantly men in their twenties and thirties. In 2011 authorities knew of about 3,800 Salafis. That number now exceeds 4,500.
The majority are Germans, with about 30 percent coming from a variety of nations, including Turkey, Morocco, and Bosnia, a security official said. About a quarter are Muslim converts.
This isn’t the first time the extremist groups have come under suspicion in Germany. Last summer, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich banned the Salafi organization Millatu Ibrahim, from which al-Nussrah branched, and launched the investigation of DawaFFM.
He said Wednesday's move to prolong the ban should be seen as a "clear sign against those who practice exclusion, violence and intolerance."