About 900 police in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia raided homes and offices of neo-Nazi groups Thursday in the biggest clampdown on extremists in the country's most populous state.
Officers searched 146 locations in 32 cities to obtain evidence of illegal activities of three organizations outlawed by the state's interior ministry today. Most of the raids were conducted in the cities of Dortmund, Aachen and Hamm.
"Their actions go against the principles of our democratic society," Ralf Jaeger, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, said.
A prohibition order was issued against the organization "Kameradschaft Aachener Land" in Aachen, while groups calling themselves "Nationaler Widerstand Dortmund" and "Kameradschaft Hamm" were banned in Dortmund and Hamm.
The groups intimidated citizens with offensive behavior and violent acts, the state government said. Propaganda material, brass knuckles, guns, knives, pepper spray and baseball bats were confiscated.
The raids, part of a wider strategy by the state to tackle the rise of anti-democratic influences, were prepared by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the police. North Rhine-Westphalia's interior ministry said it began the steps to suppress neo-Nazism last year while prohibiting extremist associations.
In May, another extremist group in the city of Cologne was banned.
Dortmund has been the scene of attacks on immigrants. Last year, federal authorities began a probe into how an underground neo-Nazi cell could have carried out murders, attacks and bank robberies across Germany for over a decade.