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5 Men Suspected of Recruiting for Islamic State Arrested in Germany

Policemen search an apartment building close to the mosque "Deutschsprachiger Islamkreis Hildesheim e.V." (German speaking Islam circle, DIK) in Hildesheim, central Germany, Nov. 8, 2016.

Five men were arrested Tuesday in Germany on accusations of recruiting fighters for the Islamic State terrorist group. Justice Minister Heiko Mass called the arrests "an important blow to the extremist scene in Germany."

Authorities say the suspects were taken into custody following a series of raids in the Lower Saxony and North-Rhine Westphalia states. The men face charges of setting up a "jihadist network" that tried to recruit Muslims to go to Syria to fight alongside IS militants.

Investigators identified one of the suspects as a 32-year-old Iraqi who goes by the alias Abu Walaa, saying he is the ringleader. Reports say the other suspects include a Turk, a German, a Serbian-German dual citizen and a Cameroonian national.

Germany has avoided large-scale terrorist attacks, but fears were stoked earlier this year following two attacks by asylum-seekers in the name of Islamic State. Only the attackers were killed.

Authorities say 820 jihadists have left Germany for war zones in Syria and Iraq and have voiced fears about security threats once those individuals return.