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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 14:50 GMT
Germany targets Muslim groups
Metin Kaplan
Metin Kaplan heads the groups targeted by police
Germany has banned more than 20 Islamic groups and carried out raids on about 200 premises.

The ban was directed against the Caliphate, a Cologne-based organisation headed by a jailed Turkish national, Metin Kaplan - who is suspected of having links with Osama Bin Laden.

The ban also covers Caliphate's subsidiary organisations, including the Servants of Islam, and 19 other related groups.

Interior Minister Otto Schily
Interior Minister Otto Schily ordered the ban under new laws
Premises were raided in states including North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, Berlin and Lower Saxony.

Several hundred police officers searched offices and mosques linked to the groups in the early hours of the morning.

They checked the identities of around 30 people in the Caliphate compound in Cologne and confiscated property there, but no arrests were reported.

In raids on one group, the Islamic Community in Wiesbaden, two men were arrested and religious documents were seized, a member of the community told Spiegel Online. The two were said to include one of the group's leading clerics.

Anti-terror laws

The raids, ordered by Interior Minister Otto Schily, were allowed under Germany's new anti-terror measures, passed in November, which lift the constitutional protection of religious organisations.

Religious groups can now be banned if they are suspected of inciting violence or undermining democracy.

Caliphate, which aims to overthrow the secular Turkish state, had previously been criticised for "aggressive, anti-semitic and anti-democratic agitation," in German intelligence reports.

Media reports say that the group had expected to be targeted by the ban and was preparing to take legal action. It claims that the ban undermines the constitutional right to religious freedom.

Kaplan, a Muslim theologian, is serving a four-year sentence in Germany for inciting the assassination of a rival Muslim leader.

He is reported to have tried to establish a joint group with Bin Laden, though apparently without success.

Turkey has demanded his extradition but Germany has so far refused as he might face the death penalty under Turkish law.

See also:

12 Dec 01 | Americas
Ashcroft's anti-terror tour begins
12 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia confirms al-Qaeda presence
11 Dec 01 | Europe
Looking for European al-Qaeda
11 Oct 01 | Europe
Analysis: Muslims in Europe
19 Sep 01 | Europe
Germans torn by dilemma
06 Nov 01 | Europe
Germany agrees Afghanistan force
13 Sep 01 | Europe
German arrest over US attacks
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