German police carry out dozens of dawn raids on far right crime network

BERLIN (Reuters) - Hundreds of police in Germany carried out dawn raids on 27 homes and business premises on Friday, including a lawyer's office, in an operation targeting members of far right groups suspected of drugs and weapons trafficking, public broadcaster MDR said.

Prosecutors told the broadcaster that eight people, aged from 24 to 55, had so far been arrested in the raids which were carried out by 500 police officers. The suspects were members of the neo-Nazi groups Turonen and Garde 20, MDR said.

Authorities said the two gangs have for years been kingpins in the drugs trade in the eastern state of Thuringia, running a network that distributed crystal meth and weapons.

The offices of a lawyer in the central state of Hesse were also raided.

MDR said that its own investigations had revealed that the raids were the result of two years of tapping and bugging operations by security services.

The Turonen and Garde 20 are recognisable by their wearing of black clothes with far right nationalist insignia on them. They have become major players in the promotion of far right heavy metal concerts, at which neo-Nazi bands from Germany and other countries perform.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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