Gang robs church offerings & schools to fund ISIS

by Kelly Ledbetter |

(REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)Members of German far-right groups shout slogans during a demonstration in Cologne, Germany October 25, 2015. Neo-Nazi groups, members of Germany's football hooligan scene and HoGeSa (Hooligans against Salafists) were organising what they said was a demonstration against Islamic extremism.

COLOGNE, Germany (Christian Examiner) – A German court heard on Oct. 20 the trial of eight men who are accused of robbing churches and schools from 2011 to 2014 to fund the Islamic State (ISIS).

The chief prosecutor, Nadja Gudermann, told the jury among the things the gang took were offertory collection boxes, crosses, chalices and various other objects "dedicated to church services and religious worship," according to DW. The young men allegedly stole 19,000 Euros (roughly $20,850 American dollars) by breaking in to churches.

It is not known how much of that money actually reached ISIS, although the gang leader, a 26-year-old Moroccan, is also standing accused of taking part in an ISIS training camp in Syria. He also uploaded an ISIS recruitment video in which he personally appears in the German portion to encourage young Muslims to participate in jihad, prosecutors say.

The churches and schools the young men are accused of robbing in Cologne and Siegen were also heavily damaged by the break-ins. At schools, the gang is believed to have taken cash, cards, and laptops.

Islamic State activities have been banned in Germany. Three of the accused will also answer charges of supporting a foreign terrorist organization later in Düsseldorf.

ANTI-ISLAM PROTESTS SHAKE COLOGNE

On Oct. 25, Cologne was the site of an anti-Islam protest that was broken up by police wielding a water cannon, FOX News reports.

In riot gear, 3,500 police were dispatched to separate the 10,000 people. About 1,000 left-wing protestors called "Hooligans against Salafists" (HoGeSa), which has a reputation for xenophobia, staged a demonstration against the politicization of Islam and Islamic extremism.

About ten times as many right-wing protestors held signs saying "Refugees welcome" in a counter-protest against HoGeSa.

As of Dec. 2014, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, estimated there to be about 455,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Germany. But that number has grown even more throughout 2015 as over 100,000 have tried to cross into Europe via the Mediterranean alone.

In September, the Pope called on each church in Europe to host a refugee family as a way to mitigate the migrants' extreme needs.

The protest was reminiscent of a more radical event held in Dresden last year by PEGIDA, an anti-Islam group; counter-protests there led to violence that injured dozens, so police have been taking preventative measures to control tension.