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German media: Key 'IS' suspect detained along with several others

German authorities have detained Abu Walaa and four other members of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia on Tuesday morning. The men are suspected of recruiting German fighters.

Ahmad Abdelazziz A., a 32-year-old Iraqi imam who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Walaa, is considered by intelligence and security officials as one of Germany's leading jihadist figures. 

Walaa and four other men were detained on Tuesday on suspicion of building a network to recruit German IS fighters, according to German broadcasters WDR and NDR, and the Süddeutsche newspaper. They targeted young Muslims in the states of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Aside from recruiting, Walaa and his associates also provided young Jihadists logistical and financial support for their journey to the Middle East

The four other detainees include a 50-year-old Turk, a 36-year-old German-Serb, a 27-year-old German and a 26-year-old Cameroonian.

Watch video 00:32

German police arrest five "IS" suspects

Walaa was reportedly known as "the worst of them all," among security officials. 

Federal prosecutors had been investigating Walaa and his associates since last fall. In July, officials raided a mosque in the city of Hildesheim, which is known for being a key meeting place for the German salafist movement.

Walaa, who was colloquially known as the "preacher without a face," hosted sermons at the mosque about waging jihad in the Middle East. Security officials observed that a number of people who attended the seminars later left Germany to travel to Syria.

"The seminars were a means of creating the ideological and semantic foundation for future service to IS, particularly when it came to fighting," federal prosecutors said.

At least one young man recruited by Walaa's network is believed to have traveled to Syria with his family to fight.

German media reported that the authorities were helped by the testimony of a German former IS fighter who had fled from Syria and spoken out against the Islamist regime. Anil O., 22, gave an interview to German media in Turkey while waiting to return to Germany. He identified Walaa as IS' number one in Germany."

All five detained men had previously denied any terrorist links.

dm/kms (Reuters, dpa)

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