German authorities arrested five jihadists Tuesday, including one of Islamic State’s top European recruiters, during simultaneous raids across the the country.
Abu Walaa, the most senior ISIS figure in Germany, and four others were detained on suspicion of building a recruiting network. The group also provided young jihadists with financial and logistical support to go fight in Syria and Iraq.
The raids came after a tip from a returning ISIS fighter who defected to Turkey in September.
Walaa, known as the “preacher without a face” and “the worst of them all” among security officials, has been investigated for more than a year. Sermons at his mosque have focused on waging jihad in the Middle East, and security officials have observed an increasing number of the mosque’s members traveling to Syria.
“The seminars were a means of creating the ideological and semantic foundation for future service to [ISIS], particularly when it came to fighting,” federal prosecutors said, according to Deutsche Welle.
The ISIS defector who provided the tip that led to the arrest identified Walaa as the “number one” ISIS leader in Germany.
ISIS claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in Germany in recent months, including a fatal stabbing in Hamburg Oct. 31.
Around 820 jihadists have left Germany for Syria and Iraq, according to figures released in May.
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