May 10, 2012 / 6:52 PM / 6 years ago

German police suspend officer over Salafist links

Berlin (Reuters) - German police have suspended an officer over links to ultra-conservative Salafist Muslims after violent clashes between supporters of the radical group and police this month.

Police spokesman Lars Lindemann told Reuters on Thursday the 31-year-old officer, identified as Ali K., had helped distribute “radical materials” promoting Islam at information stands in the western town of Duisburg.

Questioned about his activities, Ali K. had said Muslims must put their religious beliefs before loyalty to German laws and institutions, Lindemann said, triggering concern in the police about how reliable he was as an officer.

An inquiry will determine whether Ali K. can remain in the police or not.

The German police are trying to attract more recruits from ethnic and religious minorities and about 7 percent of the force now has an “immigrant background”.

Germany has an estimated 4,000 Salafists, who espouse a strict version of Islam and have their roots in Saudi Arabia.

Security experts have warned that German-language Islamist propaganda is fuelling militancy among a small number of socially alienated Muslim youths.

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said he was considering a legal ban on the Salafists.

Last weekend, the Salafists turned on police protecting far-right, anti-Islam protesters in Bonn who were waving banners showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. Twenty-nine officers were hurt in the clashes, two of them seriously.

Germany is home to some four million Muslims, about half of whom have German citizenship. Many came from Turkey as “guest workers” in the 1960s and 1970s. Germany’s total population is 82 million.

Reporting By Elisa Oddone, writing by Gareth Jones; editing by Andrew Roche

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