Nearly a thousand police officers took part in raids across 11 German cities this week, targeting an Iraqi organised crime syndicate.
Some 800 police officers searched 49 venues across North Rhine-Westphalia. Most of the 34 arrested suspects were of either Iraqi or Syrian origin or were German citizens with a migration background, according to a report from Austrian tabloid Kronen Zeitung.
The group that was the focus of the raid, named Al-Salam-313, is not very well-known publicly, but has become a part of the biker gang scene in recent years. According to North Rhine-Westphalia Minister of the Interior Herbert Reul, police have become very familiar with the gang.
Mr Reul said the raids had been planned for months in advance, labelling them “a successful strike against organised crime”.
Al-Salam-313 is believed to be involved with drug trafficking, illegal arms smuggling, and counterfeiting, with some members being suspected of funnelling money to fund militias in their home countries and a number having been in close contact with a former bodyguard of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Foreign-background criminal gangs have become a major issue in parts of Germany including the capital of Berlin, where so-called Arab clans dominate the local organised crime scene.
A report in 2016 claimed that the city was “lost to Arab clans”, while other reports have claimed the group has recruited new members from asylum reception centres.
Last year it was also revealed that the Arab clans use various tactics to intimidate police investigating them, including spreading rumours of sexual liaisons with prostitutes.
German Islamic and migration researcher Ralph Ghadban spoke out earlier this year about the growing influence of Arab clans, blaming multiculturalism and claiming the policy had led to the gangs being able to control several areas of Berlin.