Four German 'far-right extremists' arrested 'after plot to kidnap health minister over Covid foiled'

14 April 2022, 20:21

health minister
Four far-right extremists in Germany arrested after plot to kidnap government minister. Picture: Alamy

By Liam Gould

Four people have been arrested in Germany after suspected anti-government extremists allegedly planned to cause a long nationwide blackout and kidnap well-known figures, including the country's health minister.

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Prosecutors in Koblenz and Rhineland-Palatinate's state criminal police office said that raids were carried out at 20 properties across the country on Wednesday following an investigation that was launched in October.

12 people are currently under investigation, and they were all members of a chat group called United Patriots.

The group allegedly planned to kidnap well-known public figures, including German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach.

Investigators said the suspects they identified were associated with the protest movement against coronavirus restrictions and with the Reich Citizens movement, which disputes the legitimacy of the post-Second World War German constitution and, by extension, the current government.

Police said in a statement that, as well as the kidnap plot, the far-right group's declared aim was to destroy Germany's electricity supply facilities and cause a long blackout, with the goal of producing "conditions similar to civil war" and ultimately overthrowing the country's democratic system.

In a press conference, Mr Lauterbach said: "This is a small minority in our society but they are highly dangerous. This shows that Covid protests have not just radicalised but that this is about more than just Covid."

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The suspects, all German citizens, are accused of preparing a serious act of violence and of violating weapons laws.

Head of Rhineland-Palatinate state's criminal police office Johannes Kunz said: "We are dealing with a mixture consisting of conspiracy theorists, opponents of vaccination but also Reich Citizens that we hadn't seen in this form so far."

As well as weapons, a number of forged Covid vaccination certificates were found. Some are concerned by the increase in criminal activity by strands of far-right groups in the country.

Prosecutor Juergen Brauer said the group's procurement of weapons and money made clear to investigators that "we are dealing not just with cranks, but with dangerous criminals who want to implement their plans".

But, Mr Lauterbach said he would not be affected by the plans for his kidnap. He told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that some Covid-19 deniers are "fighting against our democratic order" rather than vaccinations or restrictions.

"But they won't succeed in that. I won't let myself be put off and will continue to stand up for the whole population," he said.

Investigators seized 22 firearms, including a Kalashnikov rifle, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, thousands of euros in cash, and numerous gold bars and silver coins.

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It comes after a number of incidents related with the German government's coronavirus policy. In December, a plot made by anti-vaccination activists to murder the state premier of Saxony in eastern Germany was foiled by police.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz had a bill rejected by the lower house of parliament that would have made vaccinations compulsory for people over the age of 60.

It came as another defeat for the German chancellor after he failed to gain enough support for a bill that would have made vaccinations compulsory for all adults.

Germany's vaccination policy currently sits lower than in most of Europe - with around 76% of the population receiving one dose. In most other European countries, the first dose vaccination rate is well over 80%.

A judge has been asked to issue arrest warrants for the four detained suspects. Police also confirmed that a fifth suspect is still at large.