Germany said Friday it had prohibited activities in support of the Islamic State, warning the “terrorist” group operating in Iraq and Syria also posed a threat to Europe.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the immediate ban included the recruitment of jihadist fighters, the public display of Islamic State (IS) symbols and signs and social media propaganda.
The radical Islamist group, which has committed horrifying atrocities in the wide swathes of Iraq and Syria it controls, is also a public security threat in Germany, De Maiziere warned, adding: “We are resolutely confronting this threat today.”
The move, which had been called for by lawmakers from different parties, covers all participation in the group on German soil, including via social media, to support or promote the group at demonstrations or by trying to gather fighters or funding.
IS is also active in Germany in terms of “propaganda and agitating” on the Internet and “specifically courts supporters in the German language”, the minister said.
De Maiziere also reiterated concern over an estimated 400 German nationals who have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight on the side of the jihadists.
The German government has ruled out taking part in US-led airstrikes against IS who, the US Central Intelligence Agency estimates, now has about about 20,000 to 31,500 fighters on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
But Berlin made a watershed decision last month to send arms to Iraqi Kurds battling IS jihadist militants.
Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the move to break with a post-war policy of refusing to send weapons into conflict zones by saying Europe’s own security was at stake.
– ‘Sharia Police’ sparks concern –
The IS ban comes amid calls this week from some politicians and media for Germany to crackdown on radical Islamist propaganda by ultra-conservative Salafists, after a small group of men took to the streets calling themselves the “Sharia Police”.
Four alleged Islamist militants also went on trial Monday for plotting a failed bomb attack at the main train station of the western city of Bonn in December 2012 and planning the murder of a far-right anti-Muslim activist the following year.
And three German men were arrested last weekend when they flew home from Kenya, accused of having joined and fought with Somalia’s Shebab Islamist militant group.
US President Barack Obama this week vowed to expand an offensive against IS extremists, foreseeing new air strikes against IS in Syria, expanded attacks in Iraq and new support for Iraqi government forces.
Ten Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, have “agreed to do their share in the comprehensive fight” against IS, a statement said after a meeting Thursday between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Arab counterparts.
The growing IS threat was made clear after the group seized large parts of Iraq in a lightning June offensive, sweeping aside ineffective Iraqi forces.
It declared a “caliphate” in parts of Syria and Iraq it controls and has been accused of widespread atrocities, including beheadings, crucifixions, rapes and selling women into slavery.
And IS militants beheaded two captive US journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, in recent weeks, videos released by the jihadists showed.