Germany arrests Islamist preacher on charges of recruiting militants

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BERLIN (Reuters) - A German Islamist preacher was arrested in Germany on Tuesday for recruiting fighters for a militant group in Syria and purchasing and delivering military equipment, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office said.

Sven Lau, 35, is suspected of recruiting Germans living in and around the western German city of Duesseldorf to fight abroad and was believed to have recruited two fighters already, the office said in a statement.

Hundreds of Germans have left the country to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq since 2012, the interior ministry says.

Lau is a member of a wing of a group called the Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Muhajireen Brigade) which the prosecutor said supported IS.

The interior ministry of North-Rhine Westphalia state where Lau was arrested said he was suspected of supporting a “terrorist” organization abroad under the guise of providing humanitarian aid.

The state’s interior minister, Ralf Jaeger said Lau was considered a leading light among Germany’s Salafist groups which he said encouraged young men to join jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria.

Salafist preachers used propaganda that glorified violence and radicalized young men under the pretence of helping suffering people, he said.

Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Richard Balmforth