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CRIME

Germany arrests Covid protesters for kidnap plot

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.

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
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

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.

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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CRIME

German police foil teenage school ‘Nazi attack’

German investigators said Thursday they foiled a school bomb attack, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a "Nazi terror attack".

German police foil teenage school 'Nazi attack'

“The police prevented a nightmare,” said Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state.

Police in the city of Essen had stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

Some of the pipe bombs found contained nails, but officers did not find any detonators, Reul said.

There are “indications suggesting the young man has serious psychiatric problems and suicidal thoughts,” said Reul.

Material found so far in the suspect’s room include his own writing which constituted “a call for urgent help by a desperate young man.”

The suspect was allegedly planning to target his current school or another where he studied previously.

“All democrats have a common task to fight against racism, brutalisation and hate,” said NRW’s deputy premier Joachim Stamp, as he thanked police for “preventing a suspected Nazi terror attack”.

The suspect is being questioned while investigators continue to comb his home for evidence.

Investigators believe that he was acting alone.

They had been tipped off by another teen who informed them that the young man “wanted to place bombs in his school”, located about 800 metres from his home.

The school, as well as another institution, were closed on Thursday as investigators undertook fingertip searches as the locations to ensure that no bombs had been placed on site.

‘Neo-Nazi networks’ 

Germany has been rocked by several far-right assaults in recent years, sparking accusations that the government was not doing enough to stamp out neo-Nazi violence.

In February 2020 a far-right extremist shot dead 10 people and wounded five others in the central German city of Hanau.

Large amounts of material championing conspiracy theories and far-right ideology were subsequently found in the gunman’s apartment.

And in 2019, two people were killed after a neo-Nazi tried to storm a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Germany’s centre-left-led government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz took office in December pledging a decisive fight against far-right militants and investigators in April carried out country-wide raids against “neo-Nazi networks”, arresting four suspects.

The suspects targeted in the raids were believed to belong to the far-right martial arts group Knockout 51, the banned Combat 18 group named after theorder in the alphabet of Adolf Hitler’s initials, US-based Atomwaffen (Atomic) Division or the online propaganda group Sonderkommando 1418.

German authorities were also battling to clean extremists from within their ranks. Last year, the state of Hesse said it was dissolving Frankfurt’s elite police force after several officers were accused of participating in far-right online chats and swapping neo-Nazi symbols.

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