Authorities banned a neo-Nazi group that saw itself as "Adolf Hitler's task force" and had links to the murder of a German politician. Police also conducted raids against the group in six states.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer banned a right-wing extremist group on Thursday that referred to itself as "Adolf Hitler's task force."
The German branch of Combat 18 "is a neo-Nazi, racist and xenophobic association whose purpose is similar to that of national socialism," the ministry said in a statement announcing the ban.
"Today's ban is a clear message: right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism have no place in our society," Interior Minister Seehofer said.
The ban came as 210 officers on Thursday morning carried out raids across Germany, searching through apartments in the states of Hesse, Thuringia and North Rhine-Westphalia as well as in three other states.
"Mobile phones, computers and right-wing extremist symbols were confiscated," a spokesman for the Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Ministry said.
Calls to ban the group had been growing since the murder of German politician Walter Lübcke near Kassel in June 2019. His suspected murderer is thought to have had contact with members of Combat 18. Europol, the EU-wide police agency, also warned that Combat 18 posed a threat throughout Europe.
Under the ban, the group will not be able to meet and it will be illegal to write or use the group's logo.
What is Combat 18?
Combat 18 is a militant neo-Nazi organization formed in Britain in 1992. They are believed to be the armed wing of another another neo-Nazi network, Blood & Honour, that has spread to several European countries.
The number 18 in the name corresponds with the first and eighth letters in the alphabet —A and H— the first letters of Adolf Hitler's first and last names.
The group was classified as a right-wing extremist group in Germany at the start of the 2000s and there are thought to be around 20 members in the German organization. The group's motto is "whatever it takes."
Leaders of the German faction are reported to be Stanley Röske, 43, from near Kassel, and Robin Schmiemann, 35, from Dortmund. Schmiemann spent time in prison for shooting a Tunisian during a supermarket raid.
The group is particularly known in Germany for spreading right-wing extremist music and organizing neo-Nazi concerts.