A representation of Adolf Hitler lies in a box after police searched the house of an alleged neo-Nazi in Juelich, western Germany, on August 23, 2012. (File photo)
More than 900 police officers have raided homes and clubhouses of suspected neo-Nazis in a crackdown in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and seized far-right propaganda material, computer hard drives as well as a wide variety of weapons.
Around 100 addresses were searched in Dortmund, Hamm and in the Unna area, as well as nearly 50 flats in Aachen, Duren and Heinsberg on Thursday, The Associated Press reported.
The raids to collect evidence came after the state interior minister Ralf Jaeger outlawed three local neo-Nazi groups, namely Nationaler Widerstand Dortmund, Kameradschaft Hamm and Kameradschaft Aachener Land.
"These groups are anti-foreigner, they are racist and they are anti-Semitic," Jaeger said at a press conference.
He added the crackdown in the North Rhine-Westphalia state has ripped a big hole in the network of the neo-Nazis.
The three groups were considered the most dangerous in western Germany. They were all regarded as violent, with the Aachen group considered nasty enough to border on terrorism.
Two members of the last group were stopped on their way to Berlin two years ago - and found with home-made bombs containing pieces of glass which they allegedly planned to throw at left-wingers and police.
They also strongly identified with the neo-Nazi terrorist group that called itself the National Socialist Underground, which is thought to have been responsible for nine racially motivated murders as well as the killing of a policewoman.
Far-right violence has long been pigeon-holed as an eastern German problem. The recent move in the heart of western Germany will however reopen questions about how widespread Nazism is across the country and how the German intelligence services detects the menace.
In a report released last month by Germany's domestic intelligence agency, officials estimated that the wider membership of neo-Nazi groups in Germany fell to 22,400 last year from 25,000 in 2010, but the number of far-right extremists prepared to use violence grew to 9,800 from 9,500.