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Germany arrests Covid protesters for kidnap plot

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Germany arrests Covid protesters for kidnap plot
Jürgen Brauer (l), Attorney General in Koblenz, speaks next to Johannes Kunz, President of the Rhineland-Palatinate State Criminal Police Office, during a press statement on the investigations into the "United Patriots" chat group. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

German investigators on Thursday said they had arrested four members of a far-right anti-lockdown group for planning violent attacks, including a plot to kidnap the country's health minister.

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The suspects from the "Vereinte Patrioten" (United Patriots) group are accused of "preparing explosive attacks and other acts of violence" as well as the "kidnapping of well-known public figures", prosecutors in Koblenz said in a joint statement with the Rhineland-Palatinate police.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach confirmed he was among their targets and had received police protection.

The main aim of the group was to "destroy power supply facilities in order to cause a prolonged nationwide blackout", the investigators said.

"This was intended to cause civil war-like conditions and ultimately overthrow the democratic system in Germany," they said.

READ ALSO: Germany stages country-wide raids against ‘neo-Nazi networks’

Investigators had identified five suspects aged between 41 and 55 and on Wednesday carried out searches leading to four arrests and the seizure of around two dozen guns, including a Kalashnikov.

They also seized ammunition, around €8,900 ($9,700) in cash, gold bars and silver coins and foreign currency worth more than €10,000.

The Vereinte Patrioten group includes members of the far-right Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich), who reject Germany's democratic
institutions, as well as opponents of the government's anti-virus measures, the prosecutors said.

Responding to the news, Lauterbach said some protesters against Covid-19 measures had become "highly dangerous".

A small minority have "not only become radicalised but are now about more than Covid and... are intent on destabilising the state and democracy," he said in a statement.

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Germany's centre-left-led government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz took office in December pledging a decisive fight against far-right militants after criticism that the previous administration had been lax on neo-Nazi violence.

Investigators last week swooped on alleged neo-Nazi militant cells across Germany and arrested four suspects in what Der Spiegel magazine called "the biggest blow against the militant neo-Nazi scene in the recent past".

READ ALSO: Suspected neo-Nazi charged with plotting German ‘race war’

A suspected neo-Nazi was also charged this week with attempting to set off a "race war" in Germany with planned attacks using explosives and guns.

Germany's protests against coronavirus measures have at times drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators, attracting a wide mix of people, including vaccine sceptics, neo-Nazis and members of the far-right AfD party.

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