Berlin (dpa) - German police have conducted a search of a mosque in the city of Hildesheim that has been linked to the Islamic State group and have confiscated evidence in support of plans to ban the organization, the Interior Ministry said Thursday.
The mosque - run by the city's German-speaking Islam Circle (DIK) - and flats belonging to eight of the DIK's leading members were searched late Wednesday, the ministry in the state of Lower Saxony said in a statement.
"The DIK in Hildesheim is a national hotbed of the radical Salafist scene," Lower Saxony Interior Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement, referring to an ultra-conservative reform movement within Sunni Islam.
"After months of preparation, we took a major step today towards banning the organization with the searches we carried out," he said of the police operation, which was carried out by about 400 officers.
The authorities have evidence that Muslims were being radicalized in the mosque and encouraged to go and fight in war zones, and that some attendees had already left Germany to join terrorist organizations including Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Germany has been left shaken by a series of violent attacks since July 18. An axe-and-knife attack on a Bavarian commuter train and a suicide bombing in the Bavarian town of Ansbach were carried out by asylum seekers who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
The Bavarian government on Thursday formulated its counter-terrorism strategy, saying it would hire 2,000 new police officers by 2020 and that it would push for a constitutional change to expand the capacities of the German army in the fight against terrorism.
Critics say Germany's Bundeswehr is neither trained nor equipped to participate in police operations during terrorist attacks.