Germany bans far right group and raids more than 20 homes

United German Peoples and Tribes has been banned as Germany says even in times of crisis the fight against extremism will continue

epa08305861 Police cars stand in front of a house during ongoing searchings at a house in the south of Berlin, Germany, 19 March 2020. German Minister of Interior, Construction and Homeland Horst Seehofer banned for the first time a group of the Reich Citizens' Association (Reichsbuergervereinigung) called United German peoples and tribes (Geeinte deutsche Voelker und Staemme)  EPA/CLEMENS BILAN
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Germany has banned a far right group and carried out raids across the country.

Police in 10 states raided the homes of 21 of the most senior members of the United German Peoples and Tribes group on Thursday.

It is part of a crackdown on anti-Semitic groups following a terror attack in Hanau in February which saw a gunman kill 10 people.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said he had banned the United German Peoples and Tribes in what is the first such action against a group with links to the Reichsbuerger - Reich Citizens - network that claims allegiance to the pre-war German Reich.

"Right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism are being fought relentlessly even in times of crisis," Mr Seehofer said in a statement, adding that the group had engaged in "verbal militancy" against civil servants and their families.

The Interior Ministry said around 400 police officers had seized firearms, propaganda material and small amounts of drugs during the raids.

“We are dealing with a group that distributes racist and anti-Semitic writings and in doing so systematically poisons our free society,” Mr Seehofer added.

Germany has stepped up monitoring of far-right groups and sympathisers after the Hanau shooting and attacks in October by an anti-Semitic gunman in the city of Halle that killed two people.

A pro-migrant politician was also murdered at his home last June.

"Since the early hours, police measures are going on in 10 states" out of Germany's 16, interior ministry spokesman Steve Alter wrote on Twitter.

The domestic intelligence agency last week stepped up its monitoring of a radical wing of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and the agency's chief said that right-wing extremism was the biggest threat to German democracy.

In a 2016 a police officer was killed and two more were injured in a shootout involving a men with links to Reichsbuerger. He was later sentenced to life in prison.

Last month 12  men were arrested across Germany on suspicion of planning attacks on mosques aimed at bringing about "a civil-war-like situation".

The government has announced hundreds of new posts for federal police and security services to strengthen surveillance of the far-right scene, and is considering tighter laws on gun ownership.