Germany bans Islamic group suspected of financing terrorism

Ansaar International accused of posing as humanitarian aid group

Police officers stay in front of a building of the Ansaar International association in Duesseldorf, Germany, Wednesday, May 5. 2021. The German government on Wednesday banned the Muslim organization. Buildings in 10 German states were raided, according to German news agency dpa, which said that the donations Ansaar collected were donated to welfare projects but also to groups such  as Al-Nusra in Syria, the Palestinians' Hamas group and Al-Shabaab in Somalia. (Marcel Kusch/dpa via AP)
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Germany banned an Islamic aid group on Wednesday which it accused of posing as a humanitarian organisation in order to raise funds for terrorist groups.

Ansaar International's properties were raided in 10 states as German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer moved to shut down the group.

"If you want to fight terror you have to dry up its sources of funding," he said.

Based in Duesseldorf, Ansaar says its purpose is to support projects for Muslims worldwide.

It claims to provide humanitarian aid to people affected by war and crises by, for instance, building or financing the construction of hospitals, orphanages and schools.

But Germany's Interior Ministry said Ansaar's funds were raised with the intention of financing groups such as Hamas, Al Shabab and the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra.

Ansaar and its affiliates "spread a Salafist world view and finance terror around the world under the guise of humanitarian aid," the ministry said.

"Financial support, even for what at first glance appear to be charitable activities, secures the terrorist groups' power and dominance in the respective region, facilitates the recruitment of activists and saves the terrorist group money, which in turn can be used to carry out the crimes it plans."

Police secures a building after Germany banned the Islamic organisation Ansaar International in Duesseldorf, Germany, May 5, 2021.     REUTERS/Erol Dogrudogan
Police secure an Ansaar building in Duesseldorf. Reuters

Investigators seized items during their raids and set up a cordon outside an Ansaar building in Duesseldorf.

Further raids involving more than 1,000 security operatives took place in Berlin, Hamburg and seven other states.

Officers seized about €150,000 ($180,000) in cash, the ministry said.

Ansaar said it has about 800 members in Germany and raised up to €10 million in 2018 alone.

Steve Alter, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said sub-organisations linked to Ansaar had also been banned.

"Someone who purports to collect money for a good cause but then finances terrorists cannot hide behind the right of association," Mr Seehofer said.

"Our security authorities are highly vigilant and blind to nothing."

Police raided offices belonging to Ansaar in 2019 on suspicion of financing Hamas, which is on an EU terrorism blacklist.

The 2019 raids also involved an organisation called WorldWide Resistance-Help.