Germany bans extremist group
BERLIN, Germany -- Germany has outlawed an extremist Islamic organisation, making the first use of a new law allowing the banning of religious groups with possible links to terrorism.
Declared illegal is the Cologne-based organisation "Islamic State" and 19 related groups -- with a total of 1,100 members.
After the order, Interior Minister Otto Schily said, an estimated 200 searches were carried out in seven German states. He did not say if anything had been found or if there had been any arrests.
Investigators have announced no direct links between the group and the September 11 attacks, but have said members travelled to Afghanistan to meet with Osama bin Laden supporters in 1996 or 1997.
The group, led by Turkish-born Muhammed Metin Kaplan, openly calls for the overthrow of secular governments and their replacement with Islamic ones.
Until now German authorities had been unable to act against Islamic State because of legislation to protect religious groups.
But the new law, passed last month, allows the government lift the protections for any organisation deemed to promote extremism or ideals that could be linked to terrorism.
Kaplan, whose group had long been under observation by Germany's domestic security agency, is wanted in Turkey on high-treason charges but German officials want assurances that he will not face the death penalty if he is extradited.
Turkish authorities blame Kaplan followers for a planned 1998 suicide attack on the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Kaplan is serving a four-year German jail term for incitement to kill a rival.
Germany has stepped up its drive against Islamic militants since the events of September 11.
Last Friday five Algerians who trained in Afghanistan were charged with belonging to a "terrorist" cell and planning a foiled bomb attack last year, German federal prosecutors said.
The cell, which had contacts with similar extremists in Britain and Italy, is accused of amassing weapons, ammunition and explosives and plotting an attack in the French city of Strasbourg during the Christmas holidays last year.
Police foiled the plan when they detained four of the men on December 26 in Frankfurt. The fifth man was detained in April.
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