The German government extended its ban on Hezbollah’s armed wing to cover the entire group on Thursday and launched a series of dramatic mosque raids to coincide with the announcement.
As German media reported the involvement of Special Forces in raids across Berlin, Bremen, Dortmund and Muenster, the policy shift announced by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer was welcomed by the United States and Israel.
Speaking to the daily newspaper Bild, Seehofer said Hezbollah was planning activities on German soil and had pledged to destroy Israel. “It is part of our historic responsibility that we use all means under the rule of law to act against this,” he said.
Alongside the early morning mosque raids, German police also raided the homes of several association leaders, as the Interior Ministry said it believed that there were up to 1,050 people in Germany linked to Hezbollah’s “extremist wing”.
The UK proscribed Hezbollah’s political wing last year and this week Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Germany had taken “a significant step in the global fight against terrorism” before urging the European Union to follow suit.
Hezbollah is a Shi’ite group supported by Iran but based in Lebanon. After recent electoral success it is now Lebanon’s biggest political party and commands a battle-hardened militia that is better armed and more capable that the state’s military.