Today’s operation in the central German state of Hesse followed a separate night raid in Berlin on Tuesday that led to the detention of three suspects with alleged links to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), local media reports.
Sixteen males were targeted.
The only person arrested was the main suspect, a 36-year-old Tunisian man who allegedly worked as a recruiter and trafficker for the Islamic State. He was taken into custody without resistance in Frankfurt.
A spokesman for the state police force said that the suspect also had plans for a terror attack, but these were still in their early stages and a target had not yet been selected.
“With this operation, we are sending a clear message to radical Islamists in Hesse: We have the scene firmly within our sights,” Hesse’s interior minister, Peter Beuth, said.
On Tuesday evening, three men were arrested during police raids in Berlin on terrorism-related charges.
According to a police spokesperson, the arrested individuals are suspected of traveling to war zones in Syria and Iraq and having links to IS.
However, there was no indication of concrete plans to carry out an attack in Germany.
The arrested men are supposed to have frequented the same mosque attended by Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian who murdered 12 people and injured around 50 on December 19 when he drove a truck into a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz in west Berlin.
The mosque in the Berlin district of Moabit, which is being investigated by authorities, was also searched.
Sixteen suspects from 16 to 46 years old were detained in several cities, including Frankfurt, Offenbach, and Darmstadt.
They are being investigation for having possible links to Islamic State, according to Bild.
All of the suspects were part of a “widespread Salafist network” said to have been planning a terror attack, according to Hesse’s interior minister, Peter Beuth.
A 36-year-old Tunisian citizen suspected of being the network’s leader was also arrested. According to police authorities, the man has been under intense scrutiny since August of 2015, as he is suspected of being a recruiter and human trafficker for Islamic State.
The raids are meant to send “a clear message to the radical Islamists in Hesse… that we are keeping an eye on the [Islamist] scene,” Beuth said.
This week’s anti-terrorism operation comes not long after security lapses were exposed following an attack in December, when a Tunisian national rammed a heavy truck into a crowd at a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people and injuring 49.
German police and security agencies came under intense criticism when it emerged that, although the suspect, a Tunisian citizen named Anis Amri, had been under police surveillance for several months, nothing had been done to stop him due to bureaucratic hurdles and a lack of intelligence sharing between regional and federal authorities.
Germany, and Europe as a whole, has seen a surge in terrorist attacks related to radical Islamism since its ongoing migrant crisis began.
Earlier in 2016, the EU’s police agency, Europol, warned of the risk of lone-wolf terrorists carrying out devastating attacks targeting transport infrastructure.