© Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters
German authorities have raided and shut down a mosque in Stuttgart on grounds of promoting violence and raising money for terrorist organizations such as Islamic State militants. Authorities said that some of its parishioners traveled to fight for IS to Syria.
Police raided a mosque and cultural center called the Islamic Educational and Cultural Center Mesdschid Sahabe (MSM) in the southwestern city of Stuttgart on Thursday. Computers, data storage devices, smartphones, documents were seized, while the center was closed, said Reinhold Gall, the interior minister of Baden-Wurttemberg state.
"The association supports, in the form of the so-called Islamic State, an Islamist group that carries out religiously-motivated attacks against persons and property," he said as quoted by AFP.
Known Salafists and fundamentalist Islamists most of them from western Balkans have been frequent visitors of the mosque, he added. Ten people have travelled to Syria to fight for IS after visiting the center while three of them have since died, he said.
"Through the association, donations have been collected for terrorist groups and fighters recruited for the conflict in Syria. In addition, the association and its members glorify jihad and religiously motivated terrorism," he said. "We do not tolerate associations that advocate the use of violence to promote religious concerns and collect donations for terrorist groups."
The mosque and center was previously raided by police in March to gather evidence.
New counter-terrorism force
On Wednesday, Germany introduced a new special unit consisting of some 250 officers to counter terrorism threat. "The danger in Germany from international terrorism is high, as it is across Europe," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters. "It was high, it is high, and it will remain high for the foreseeable future."
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, police arrested a prominent German extremist preacher Sven Lau on suspicion of supporting IS. Ralf Jaeger, North Rhine-Westphalia's interior minister, has described Lau as “one of the leading figures” among German Salafists. Lau is also known for organizing the so-called ‘Sharia police’ which was preaching Salafist morals outside casinos and bars in the city of Wuppertal. last year.
Since 2012, about 670 people have left Germany to join IS and other terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq, according to figures provided by the Interior Ministry.