German police have raided and subsequently banned a Salafist organisation which had links to the December Christmas Market terror attacker Anis Amri.Raids were conducted on the radical Islamist group “Deutschsprachiger Islamkreis Hildesheim” (DIK) on Tuesday. Authorities searched its mosque and the residences of eight individuals associated with the DIK. Lower Saxony’s Interior Minister Boris Pistorius of the Social Democrats (SPD) also announced the group would be banned, reports Tagesspiegel.
“With the prohibition of the association, a hotspot of the radical Salafist scene in Germany was smashed,” Pistorius noted. DIK had been in contact with Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri before he went on a rampage at a Berlin Christmas market in late December using a lorry to kill 12 people and injure close to 50 more.
The Christmas market attack is not the first time the group has been linked to terrorism. Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah A., who led the organisation and served as its preacher, was arrested in November of 2016.
Known across the radical Islamist scene in Germany as “Abu Walaa”, he was taken into custody along with four others who were all said to radicalise and recruit for Islamic State as well as help Muslims get to Syria and Iraq.
Before the December terror attack, an informant told authorities that Amri, who had been at the mosque, was plotting to drive a lorry through a Christmas market. He said the police should arm themselves with submachine guns, though the authorities thought the threat was exaggerated and chose to ignore the informant.
Radical hate preacher Sven Lau was also connected to the group. Lau formed a “sharia police” group in Germany and was put on trial for allegedly helping Islamic State with recruitment and supplies including night vision goggles.
Since the December Berlin attack, the German government has begun to crack down on Islamists in the country. Authorities have made multiple arrests since the start of the year including at a Berlin mosque that was also linked to Amri. Over 400 police raided the now banned Fussilet 33 group in late February.
German intelligence sources have revealed the Islamist threat has grown significantly in Germany over the past few years. In 2013 there were reportedly around 100 known Islamist radicals, and that number has skyrocketed to over 1,600.