German authorities arrested five men on Tuesday morning alleged to be important figures in ISIS' recruitment network."The five accused formed a pan-regional Salafist-jihadist network, with the accused Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah A. taking on the leading role,"
said a statement from the prosecutors' office.
Authorities have long considered Ahmad A., who goes by the alias Abu Walaa or "the preacher without a face",
to be one of the central figures in the German Islamist scene.
Federal prosecutors confirmed that the arrested men are 32-year-old Iraqi Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah A., 50-year-old Turkish citizen Hasan C., 36-year-old German-Serbian citizen Boban S., 27-year-old German Mahmoud O., and 26-year-old Cameroonian Ahmed F. Y.
The arrests come after a year-long investigation into Abu Walaa and his inner circle, who investigators believe recruited young Muslims to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS, supporting them logistically and financially.
As part of the investigation, police raided a mosque in late July in the small northern town of Hildesheim, Lower Saxony, which has long been considered a centre of the German Salafist scene. Abu Walaa is alleged to have given sermons in the mosque encouraging people to travel to Syria to fight.
Two of the other men arrested were preachers in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia who are alleged to have links to Abu Walaa.
Burkhard Freier, who leads North Rhine-Westphalia's domestic security service, said the group had "no concrete plans of attack."
The probe will focus on two elements, he said: "first on the radicalisation of young people and secondly, which is something that the investigations must still prove - was there people smuggling, was there ideological conditioning and ideological preparation for a departure to Syria."
Hasan C. was in contact with two teenagers with Islamist backgrounds who were arrested over an explosion that wounded three people at a Sikh temple in the western city of Essen in April, said Freier.
According to figures released in May by German intelligence services, 820 jihadists have left Germany for Syria and Iraq. Almost a third have returned and 140 were killed while abroad, while around 420 are still in Syria or Iraq.