Prosecutors in Germany announced that they have detained four people suspected of plotting to kidnap the country’s health minister and bring down the country’s power grid.
Officials said that raids were carried out at 20 properties across Germany following an investigation launched in October. In addition to those detained a further eight people are being investigated.
The suspects were associated with the protest movement against coronavirus restrictions, and were all members of a chat group called “United Patriots” on the Telegram messaging service, a group believed to be used by extremist organizations looking for radicalization targets.
The four are accused of preparing a serious act of violence, and weapons laws violations after guns and ammunition were found during the raids. A fifth suspect remains at large.
Karl Lauterbach, the minister at the center of the kidnap plot, said that it showed that extremists were using public discontent over Covid restrictions to pursue an agenda of destabilization.
“The whole thing shows that corona protests have not just become more radical, but that it is now about more than corona – that there is an attempt here to destabilize the state,” Lauterbach said at a news conference, warning that those radicalized were a small minority but “highly dangerous”.
In addition to kidnapping Lauterbach, the group also planned to destroy power facilities, causing a nationwide blackout.
The prosecutor’s office said that the detained suspects “intended to cause civil war-like conditions and ultimately overthrow the democratic system in Germany”.
Prosecutor Juergen Brauer said the weaponry found in the raids showed that “we are dealing not just with cranks, but with dangerous criminals who want to implement their plans”.
The arrests are the latest in a succession of foiled extremist plots relating to Germany’s Covid restrictions. In December police arrested members of a group in Dresden over their plan to murder Saxony premier Michael Kretschmer, motivated by opposition to proposed mandatory vaccines.