22 Nabbed in German Terror Raids
ULM, Germany – German police stepped up their crackdown on Islamic extremism Wednesday, detaining 22 people during raids of apartments and mosques allegedly used by a network that provided financing and other support to terrorists.
About 700 officers searched dozens of apartments, mosques and call centers in five German states, discovering militant Islamic propaganda and forged passports and visas, authorities said.
The raids capped a long-term investigation of 20 people who allegedly raised money through smuggling and producing false papers to "pursue their ideological goals," said prosecutors in Munich, where authorities coordinated the probe.
The suspects included German citizens and nationals of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Bulgaria, Bavarian state police investigator Gerhard Zintl said. Their ages ranged from 17 to 46, and five of the suspects were female.
Eleven were formally arrested while 11 others were placed in provisional custody, suggesting the cases against them were not as strong. No charges were filed.
Authorities stressed that their role was believed to be purely logistical.
"We have no hints that any attacks were planned," chief Munich prosecutor August Stern said at a press conference.
Still, members of the network allegedly had links with terror groups including Ansar al-Islam (search), an Al Qeda-linked faction believed to use its European operations to raise money and channel fighters to Iraq to fight U.S.-led coalition forces.
"Certain individuals had contacts to Ansar al-Islam and were trained in their camps," Zintl said without elaborating.
Officials said the "ideological center" of the network was in the Baden Wuerttemberg city of Ulm (search) and the neighboring Bavarian city of Neu Ulm. The other raids were concentrated in Freiburg, Frankfurt, Duesseldorf and Bonn.
The suspects "equipped people with false documents, making possible illegal residency in the country and outside, and supported other like-minded groups," a statement from Munich prosecutors said. "In addition, they are accused of spreading their beliefs in racial hatred and recruiting people for jihad (holy war)."
Ulrich Heffner, a spokesman for state police in Baden Wuerttemberg, said many of the suspects were accused of using French, Belgian and Dutch travel documents to finance terror activities.
"Others were illegally living in Germany. One of them used a total of eight false identities to disguise his criminal activities," he said in a statement.
Three of the Sept. 11 hijackers lived in Germany. Since then, German authorities have been cracking down on Islamic extremists.
Most recently, police on Dec. 3 arrested three Iraqis believed to be part of Ansar al-Islam. They were accused of plotting to attack Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search) during a visit to Berlin.