BERLIN (AP) — German police raided five sites linked to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, as authorities announced Thursday that they were banning activities by its political wing in Germany.
The raids, intended to prevent evidence about possible front organizations being destroyed, took place at mosques and community centers in Berlin, Bremen, Muenster, Recklinghausen and Dortmund.
German lawmakers last year called on the government to extend an existing ban on activities by the group’s militant wing to include those of its political branch. At the time, officials had warned that such a move was legally difficult, because Hezbollah doesn’t have any official presence in Germany.
The Interior Ministry said the decree issued Thursday bans all activities in support of the group in Germany, including the use of its symbols or publications. Hezbollah supporters have staged annual anti-Israel marches in Berlin for several years.
The United States and Israel welcomed Germany’s move against the group, which is rooted in Lebanon’s Shiite community and has close ties to Iran.
U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell called on other European Union countries to also ban Hezbollah’s activities, saying the group “cannot be allowed to use Europe as a safe haven to support terrorism in Syria and across the Middle East.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on Twitter that “Hezbollah is a terror organization & must be treated as such.” Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 that ended in a U.N.-brokered cease-fire.