BERLIN — Germany is banning the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 Deutschland in what the country's top security official said Thursday was a "clear message" against far-right extremism and anti-Semitism.
More than 200 police officers carried out raids in six German states early Thursday, seizing cellphones, computers, unspecified weaponry, Nazi memorabilia and propaganda material, the Interior Ministry said.
The group had spread "far-right extremism and anti-Semitic hatred" in German society by producing neo-Nazi music and staging concerts for extremist bands, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.
The group is an offshoot of Combat 18, which was founded in Britain in the early 1990s as a militant wing of the British National Party. The number 18 stands for the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, AH, which are the initials of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
The German chapter of Combat 18 "enjoys great respect within the far-right extremist scene" and is regarded as a symbol of violent extremism, Seehofer said.
Some of the group's members were convicted of illegally importing ammunition to Germany as they returned from firearms training in the Czech Republic in September 2017.
The police raids were carried out in Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia states.
Irene Mihalic, a member of the opposition Green party, said the neo-Nazi group should have been banned sooner.
She called for links between Combat 18 and other actors in the far-right scene to be investigated, including the suspect in the killing of regional politician Walter Luebcke last year.