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Iran-Backed Hezbollah Banned In Germany

A Hezbollah supporter holds up portraits of the group's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah (right), and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a religious commemoration in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. (file photo)

Germany has banned Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah's activities on its soil and designated it a terrorist organization, a move welcomed by Tehran's rivals the United States and Israel.

"Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has banned the Shi'ite terrorist organization Hezbollah in Germany," Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter tweeted on April 30.

The announcement came after German police conducted early morning raids in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Bremen, and the capital, Berlin, to detain suspected members of the group.

Germany had previously distinguished between Hezbollah's political arm and its military units, which have fought alongside President Bashar al-Assad's army in Syria.

Hezbollah has already been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell welcomed the move and urged other EU countries to follow suit.

The German ban "reflects the resolve of the West to confront the global threat posed by [Hezbollah]," Grenell said in a statement, adding that the group "cannot be allowed to use Europe as a safe haven to support terrorism in Syria and across the Middle East."

Grenell's statement was echoed by Iran's archfoe Israel, which also called on other European countries to follow Berlin's example.

"It is a very important decision and a valuable and significant step in the global fight against terrorism," Foreign Minister Israel Katz said.

The group is also a significant backer of Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab's government which took office in January.

As many as 1,050 people in Germany are part of Hezbollah's extremist wing, security officials estimate.

Based on reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP