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Protests in Germany over raids

AP | May 11, 2007 
MELISSA EDDY

BERLIN - Thousands of people staged spontaneous demonstrations overnight in major German cities, police said Thursday, after nationwide raids against anti-globalization activists suspected of plotting to disrupt next month's Group of Eight summit.

Hamburg police detained eight demonstrators who threw stones and bottles at officers securing the protests, staged outside the offices of a main activist group that had been raided. Another four demonstrators were arrested in Berlin, although protests there remained peaceful.

Supporters of Germany's anti-globalization activists called the demonstrations hours after hundreds of officers, acting on a warrant from federal prosecutors, searched 40 offices and apartments used by left-wing protesters in Berlin, Hamburg and elsewhere.

Prosecutors said they were investigating more than 18 people suspected of organizing what they called a terrorist group that planned to carry out firebombings and other violent attacks aimed at hindering or stopping the world leaders from holding the June 6-8 summit in the northern resort town of Heiligendamm.

"The militant extreme left groups and their members are suspected of having founded a terrorist group, or of being members of such an organization, with the specific goal of staging fire bombings and other violent attacks in order to disrupt or prevent the upcoming G-8 summit in Heiligendamm," federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Germany's interior ministry announced it would tighten border controls to screen out violent protesters. People can usually travel freely within the European Union but individual countries maintain the right to tighten checks for security purposes.

Violence has marred past summits, particularly in 2001 in Genoa, Italy, when police and protesters clashed in the streets for days.

Activists, who will hold approved marches in nearby Rostock ahead of the summit, said the raids were aimed at silencing protests against the G-8, disrupting communication among anti-globalization groups and tracking down the names of individuals involved in them.

German security officials have built a $17-million fence around the northern seaside resort of Heiligendamm, hoping to keep protesters away. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is hosting the event, and the leaders of the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, and Japan are to attend.

The protesters say they oppose the G-8 summit because the world's rich leaders ignore the suffering of people in developing countries while unrestrained globalization helps big business at the expense of the environment and workers.

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