ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—The German government has banned all activity relating to the Islamic State (IS), and it considers illegal any use of the group’s symbols, pro-IS demonstrations, fundraising on behalf of the organization or campaigning for the group on social media.
"As Minister of the Interior, I forbid the operation of the terrorist group Islamic State in Germany, with immediate effect," Thomas de Maizière told reporters at a press conference in Berlin on Friday.
He added that the IS is a “threat—even for public safety in Germany,” as approximately 400 German citizens are believed to fight for the IS or similar organizations, and 100 have reportedly returned to Germany.
"We do not know what they are doing,” said de Maizière. “But it might be that they perpetrate attacks here… Many are frustrated, but others have combat experience. They have learned to hate, to kill.”
The IS controls Iraq’s Sunni heartland after it defeated the Iraqi army in a sweeping advance in June. The group is now fighting the Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces on many fronts.
De Maizière announced that German citizens had to take down any IS propaganda, including on social media sites, which has been used "to get young men and women to join in jihad to fight and murder."
Germany famously protects the freedom of speech of many organizations, including notorious neo-Nazi groups, but the government said that the move was necessary in face of provocations and threats by IS supporters.
The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung reported last week that a German citizen, known as Silvio K., had published a video threatening attacks in Germany in retaliation for the government’s support for Peshmerga forces.
Germany has now joined an international coalition to fight the IS in Iraq and has delivered military equipment to the Kurdish forces who spearhead the fight against the radical group along their 1000-kilomtere border with the IS.
IS supporters in Europe have attacked Yezidi, Kurdish and Syrian immigrants in the past few months, including an attack against an asylum center in Berlin-Marienfeld that left several people wounded.
Germany is the second country to ban ISIS-related activities.
Israel pronounced the IS an “unauthorized” organization earlier this month, a day after the group released a video of the murder of Israeli-American journalist Steven Sotloff.
German authorities estimate that 40 of their citizens have been killed fighting for the IS and similar terrorist groups.