By GEIR MOULSON – Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — Four people have been arrested in Germany and weapons have been seized as part of an investigation into suspected anti-government extremists who allegedly planned to cause a long blackout across the country and kidnap well-known figures, including the country’s health minister, authorities announced on Thursday.
Prosecutors in Koblenz and the Rhineland-Palatinate Criminal Police Office said searches were carried out at 20 properties across Germany on Wednesday following an investigation opened in October. The suspects were members of a chat group called “United Patriots” on the Telegram messaging service.
Investigators said the suspects were associated with the protest movement against coronavirus restrictions and the Citizens of the Reich movement, which challenges the legitimacy of Germany’s post-WWII constitution and, by extension, government current. A total of 12 people are under investigation.
Authorities said the group’s stated aim was to destroy electricity supply facilities and cause a long blackout across the country, with the aim of producing “civil war-like conditions” and ultimately to overthrow the country’s democratic system.
People also read…
Police seized 22 firearms, including a Kalashnikov rifle, along with hundreds of cartridges, thousands of euros in cash and numerous gold bars and silver coins. They also found fake COVID-19 vaccination and test certificates.
The group reportedly plans to kidnap well-known public figures. Investigators said these included Health Minister Karl Lauterbach.
Lauterbach said he was “appalled” by the news and thanked investigators.
“All of this shows that the protests against the coronavirus have not only become more radical, but that it is now about more than corona – that there is an attempt here to destabilize the state,” he said. he told reporters during a visit to Husum on the German North Sea coast. . “It’s a small minority in our society, but very dangerous.”
“It won’t influence my own work,” Lauterbach said, adding that he will continue to try to balance the interests of people who want softer measures against COVID-19 with those who want tougher ones.
The suspects, all German citizens, are accused of having prepared an act of serious violence and of having violated the laws on weapons.
“We are dealing with a mixture of conspiracy theorists, opponents of vaccination but also citizens of the Reich whom we have not seen in this form until now,” said the head of the criminal police of State of Rhineland-Palatinate, Johannes Kunz.
He said members of the group had repeatedly expressed their contempt for the German state, among other things by expressing a wish that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not just attack Ukraine but also invade Ukraine. Germany, the dpa news agency reported.
Prosecutor Juergen Brauer said the group’s purchase of weapons and money made it clear to investigators that “we are not just dealing with crackpots, but dangerous criminals who want to carry out their plans “.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the investigation indicated “a serious terrorist threat” and that Lauterbach’s kidnapping plan and fantasies of overthrowing democracy constituted “a new quality of threat”.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.