BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany has banned Iran-backed Hezbollah activity on its soil and designated it a terrorist organisation, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.
Police conducted early morning raids in Germany to detain suspected members of the group. Security officials believe up to 1,050 people in Germany are part of Hezbollah’s extremist wing.
“Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has banned the Shiite terrorist organisation Hezbollah in Germany,” tweeted a ministry spokesman.
“Even in times of crisis, the rule of law is capable of acting,” he added.
Germany had previously distinguished between Hezbollah’s political arm and its military units, which have fought alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s army in Syria.
Israel and the United States had been pushing Germany to ban the organisation.
Last December, Germany’s parliament approved a motion urging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to ban all activities by Hezbollah on German soil, citing its “terrorist activities” especially in Syria.
A heavily armed Shi’ite Islamist group already designated a terrorist organisation by the United States, Hezbollah is also a significant backer of the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, which took office in January.
On a trip to Berlin last year, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped Germany would follow Britain in banning Hezbollah. Britain introduced legislation in February of last year that classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.
Officials raided four mosque associations in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Bremen and Berlin which they believe are close to Hezbollah.