Raids took place in several German cities in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony on Wednesday morning, with police targeting three Islamist preachers suspected of recruiting members and backers for the extremist group "Islamic State" (IS), German public prosecutors said.
A spokesman for the prosecutors' office in Karlsruhe told DW that one of the Islamists was believed to have given financial and logistical support to the group. He said that no arrests had been made so far.
Police officials confirmed that searches had been carried out in the cities of Dortmund, Duisburg and Hildesheim.
The interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Ralf Jäger, later said there had also been raids in his state in the cities of Düsseldorf and Tönisvorst connected with the three suspects.
A report by the newspaper "Westdeutscher Allegemeiner Zeitung" said that the raid in Duisburg targeted a travel agency with a Turkish name. The agency's owner was believed to have contacts to two youths suspected of carrying out an explosives attack on a Sikh temple in Essen in April. The attack, which is thought to have been religiously motivated, injured three men, one seriously.
The travel agency owner reportedly used a room on his premises for holding lessons on Islamic doctrine.
The Dormund and Hildesheim raids also targeted preachers suspected of recruiting young men to fight for IS in Syria and Iraq.
The raids come amid media reports that Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, and other conservative lawmakers want to toughen laws and extend police powers in response to the terror threat posed by radicalized Muslims.
Among other things, de Maiziere wants to speed up deportations of rejected asylum applicants, media reports said.
The mass-circulation "Bild" newspaper said de Maiziere also wanted to loosen privacy protections for patients, allowing doctors to report to the authorities if they believed someone posed a threat to public safety.
On Tuesday, newspapers reported that Maiziere and state interior ministers from the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) were looking to introduce massive changes to the legal system, including ramping up police numbers and providing officers with more effective weapons.
The ministers also called for a ban on burqas and an end to dual citizenship.
In July, Germany experienced a string of public attacks by refugees or people of Muslim background, including two asylum-seekers who were linked to the "IS" jihadist group. Fifteen people were killed in total, including four assailants.
Late on Tuesday, police in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate said they had arrested a 24-year-old Syrian asylum-seeker suspected of being a member of IS and acting on behalf of a high-ranking IS figure.
German police on Wednesday arrested another man in the city of Dinslaken in connection with the same investigation.
Jäger said that the second arrest was related to "acts of violence" in Syria. He also denied media reports that the Syrian asylum-seeker in the first arrest was planning to carry out an attack at the start of the Bundesliga football season.
tj/kl (dpa, AFP, Reuters)