BEIRUT: Germany has become the latest European country to ban the Iranian-backed Hezbollah on its soil, designating the group a "terrorist" organisation, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.
Police conducted early morning raids across Germany to detain suspected members of the political group, which is based in Lebanon under the stewardship of Hassan Nasrallah.
"Police measures are underway in several federal states concurrently," German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said, adding that even in times of crisis, the "rule of law is able to act."
The police raids are focused on four mosque associations in Berlin, Dortmund, Bremen and Münster accused of belonging to and promoting Hezbollah.
"The activities of Hezbollah violate criminal law and the organization opposes the concept of international understanding," the interior ministry said in a statement.
The ban prohibits any gatherings or publications promoting the group while their assets can now be confiscated, it said.
The move comes at the heels of Germany’s parliament passing a resolution late last year calling for a national ban on the activities of Hezbollah and for the Lebanese group to be put on the European Union’s terrorist list.
The EU now lists Iran-backed Hezbollah’s military wing as a banned terrorist group, but not its political wing, which has been part of Lebanese governments in recent years.
“The separation between a political and a military arm should be abandoned, and Hezbollah as a whole should be placed on the EU terrorist list,” Mathias Middelberg, the spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, said. “This could freeze Hezbollah’s funds and assets in Europe more extensively than before.”
Last month, the United States ramped up its efforts to isolate the group by offering a $10 million reward for "any information" relating to a key Hezbollah commander.
Muhammad Kawtharani is a senior official of the Lebanese Shiite movement and is accused by the US of coordinating pro-Iran groups in Iraq. He was branded as a global terrorist by the US in 2013.
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