More than 500 police officers have launched a series of raids across the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia, targeting an Iraqi crime gang.
The organized crime syndicate, known as Al-Salam-313, is accused of people smuggling as well as being involved in the drug and weapons trade.
The club was founded by a small ring of Iraqis who reached the shores of Europe in late 2015 in search of opportunities and liberties missing back home. Their arrival sparked the birth of a movement not entirely new, but that which has never existed in Europe.
Today, the Salam network operates across a wide territory in precisely 6 countries; Germany, Holland, France, Austria, Sweden and Finland. The group’s headquarters is located in Germany, where the largest number of recruits live, including long-term European residents and asylum seeking Iraqis. In this short time, their organizational capabilities have grown in parallel with the accession of new recruits, mainly followers of Sayyed Sadr.
Raids were carried out in eleven cities across North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, including Cologne, Dortmund, Essen, Hünxe and Siegburg.
More than 500 officers were involved in the raids, which included police, members of the special forces and state investigators.
The operation commenced at 5am on Wednesday morning. Police expected the raids to continue through the morning and into the afternoon.
A spokesperson for the police told DPA that the group had been the subject of an ongoing investigation for some time. As yet, no arrests have been made in relation to the raids.
German tabloid Bild is reporting that the group is said to have used some of the proceeds from their illegal activities to support militias in Iraq.
The paper is also reporting that some of those targeted as part of the raid have been in contact with members of the Iraqi government.
Organised crime has been a topic of growing concern across Germany in recent years.
While gang activity tends to have a focus on Eastern European and Middle Eastern communities in Germany, police have been careful to point out that gang membership is far more diverse than depictions in well known movies and television shows.
Around a third of gang members are German-born, while one in five is female.
While gang activity has been seen across the country, much of it has been focused on larger cities like Berlin and Frankfurt, as well as cities and towns across Germany’s largest state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
As reported by The Local earlier in May, a total of 14,225 offences committed by crime gangs in North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) were logged between 2016 and 2018.