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Germany bans Hezbollah after labeling Iran-backed militant group a 'terror organization,' conducts raids

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Official says ban was necessary because it is 'fundamentally against the concept of international understanding'

Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

Germany designated Lebanese militant and political group Hezbollah as a terror organization on Thursday. After outlawing the Iran-backed militant group, dawn raids were carried out at mosques to prevent the destruction of any evidence linking individuals or groups to Hezbollah.

German police raided four mosques with Hezbollah connections and private residences of the group's leaders in Berlin, Bremen, Dortmund, Münster, and Recklinghausen.

"As the authority responsible for issuing the ban, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building, and Community is of the opinion that Hezbollah openly calls for the violent elimination of the State of Israel and questions the right of the State of Israel to exist," the German ministry said in a statement. "The organization is therefore fundamentally against the concept of international understanding, regardless of whether it presents itself as a political, social, or military structure."

Steve Alter, a spokesman for German Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer, tweeted: "BM [Federal Minister] Seehofer today banned the activity of the Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah (Party of God) in Germany. Police measures are underway in several federal states concurrently since the early hours of the morning. The rule of law is able to act in times of crisis."

"The associations under investigation are suspected of forming part of Hezbollah due to their financial support and propaganda for the terrorist organization," Seehofer said in a statement.

Hezbollah symbols are banned, and the group's assets can be confiscated. There are believed to be approximately 1,000 Hezbollah activists in Germany.

The United States labels Hezbollah as a terrorist group, and the Trump administration issued sanctions on the Iran-backed militant group as recently as August 2019.

Richard Grenell, U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of National Intelligence, tweeted that "the world is a little bit safer" with Germany outlawing Hezbollah.

"We applaud the German government's actions today against suspected Hizballah supporters. The government's decision to act reflects the resolve of the West to confront the global threat posed by Hizballah," Grenell said in a statement.

Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz called the ban "a valuable and significant step in the global fight against terrorism."

"I call on additional European countries and the European Union to adopt this necessary policy and to recognize the organization for what it is: Hezbollah — both its military and political wings — constitutes a terror organization, and that is how it must be treated," Katz said in a statement.

The European Union designated Hezbollah's military wing a terror organization in 2013, but did not blacklist the group's political wing. In 2012, Hezbollah's deputy leader said Shia Islamist group did not divide itself into military and political branches, and that all elements were "in the service of the resistance" against Israel.

Britain's finance ministry added the entire Hezbollah entity to its list of terrorist groups in February 2019. British Interior Minister Sajid Javis said United Kingdom authorities could "no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party." The U.K. froze Hezbollah assets in January 2019.

Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, and Bahrain also designate the group in its entirety as a terrorist organization.

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