German authorities have announced a ban on all activities that support the Islamic State, the group sometimes referred to as ISIS or ISIL.
Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Friday the country’s new decree will close a legal gap that made it hard to prosecute supporters of the militant group operating in Iraq and Syria. Reuters reports the new rules will make it illegal to display Islamic State propaganda material or any of the group’s symbols in Germany.
The announcement came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel reversed a policy of not sending arms to war zones and announced Germany would be sending weapons and equipment to Iraqi Kurds to aid them in their fight against the Islamic State.
The first of those supplies reportedly landed in Iraq Sept. 5. German Lt. Col. Christoph von Lowenstern told Deutsche Welle there were no weapons in the first shipment.
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“On the pallets there is a total of 9,500 pieces of equipment, made up mostly of 4,000 ballistic vests, 4,000 helmets, 700 small radios and 680 night vision telescopes. Also included are materials for mine and munitions searches,” he said.
But while Germany seeks to help fighters battle the Islamic State abroad, the country’s authorities are also concerned that some fighters are returning to Germany from Iraq and Syria.
“The terrorist organization Islamic State is a threat to public safety in Germany as well,” de Maiziere said at a press conference.
He added that he hopes the new rules will significantly reduce the group’s ability to "to get young women and men to join the jihad and fight and murder.”
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He estimates over 400 Germans have left the country to fight alongside other jihadists in the Middle East. About 40 have been killed there he said, but more than 100 have possibly returned to Germany.
“We don't know what they are doing, but it could be that they will carry out attacks,” de Maiziere said.
The fear is not completely unfounded.
France 24 reports that earlier in the week a German citizen identified only as “Silvio K.” published a video online threatening an attack against Germany for its support of the Kurds in northern Iraq.
“We must prevent radical Islamists from bringing their jihad to our streets,” de Maiziere is quoted as saying in a separate Deutsche Welle story.
“Today's ban is an important step in the battle against international terrorism,” he added.