Berlin: 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.
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.
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 euros ($9,700) in cash, gold bars and silver coins and foreign currency worth more than 10,000 euros.
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”.
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.