Police and prosecutors searched a mosque and 22 homes in southern Germany Wednesday as part of an investigation into an outlawed Islamic group accused of being a breeding ground for terrorists. Bavarian police were investigating 21 people in connection with the pre-dawn raids near the towns of Ingolstadt and Schwabach, police spokesman Heinz Rindlbacher said. There was no word on any arrests or on what was found.
Authorities suspect the targeted individuals of continuing the activities of Hilafet Devleti, or Caliphate State, which was outlawed in December 2001 under new anti-terrorism powers granted after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Cologne-based Caliphate State, led by Turkish-born Muhammed Metin Kaplan, had openly called for the overthrow of Turkey’s secular government and its replacement with an Islamic state.
Last year, Germany extradited the group’s leader, Metin Kaplan, to Turkey, where he has been sentenced to life in prison for masterminding a failed plot to crash an airplane into the mausoleum of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in 1998.
Kaplan earlier served a four-year prison sentence in Germany for incitement in the 1997 killing of a rival cleric in Berlin.
Former Interior Minister Otto Schily has described the group, which had more than 1,000 members in Germany, as “a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists” that has spread anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli rhetoric.
The ban covered a score of affiliates including one called Islamic Center Ingolstadt. The association’s assets were seized and its center in Ingolstadt closed under the ban, police said Wednesday.
However, former members rented the premises again early in 2003 saying it would be used for prayer and had come and gone regularly since, Rindlbacher said.
“In the course of the investigation, suspicion has hardened against 21 persons from the region that they are members of a forbidden organization or that they support its continuation,” he said.
Police said they would release further details once the results for the raids were known.