German justice announced on Wednesday that it had foiled plans for attacks by a far-right and conspiratorial group that planned to attack the country’s democratic institutions and in particular Parliament. A large dragnet resulted in the arrest of 25 people across the country.
They are notably suspected “of having made concrete preparations to violently enter the German Bundestag”, the chamber of deputies in Berlin, “with a small armed group”, the prosecutors said in a press release. “We suspect that an armed attack against the constitutional bodies was planned”, commented the Minister of Justice, Marco Buschmann, in a message on Twitter evoking “a large anti-terrorist operation”.
Some 3,000 law enforcement personnel were mobilized across Germany and more than 130 searches were carried out in what media described as the largest such police operation ever in Germany. In addition to the arrests, 27 other people are targeted by the investigation and suspected of belonging to the criminal cell, according to the prosecution.
One arrest took place in Austria and another in Italy.
“Citizens of the Reich”
Founded “at the latest at the end of 2021”, the small group had “the objective of overcoming the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with a form of clean state”, a project that can only be carried out “by the ‘use of military means and violence against state officials’, according to the press release from the Karlsruhe public prosecutor’s office, in charge of cases concerning state security.
Its members are “united by a profound rejection of state institutions and of the liberal and democratic basic order of the Federal Republic of Germany, which has grown in them, over time, the decision to participate in their elimination by violence and to embark on concrete preparatory acts for this purpose”, decipher the prosecutors.
In recent years, the German authorities have ranked far-right violence as the number one threat to public order, ahead of the jihadist risk. In the spring, they had dismantled another far-right group suspected of having planned attacks in the country and the kidnapping of the Minister of Health, at the origin of the anti-Covid restriction measures.
In particular, a German movement known as the “Reichsbürger” (citizens of the Reich) is targeted, who have in common to reject the state order. They don’t recognize its institutions, obey the police, pay taxes, or reinvent their vehicle license plates.
Of the approximately 20,000 estimated militants of this ideology in Germany, a fringe has become radicalized, including Holocaust deniers and considering the use of violent action. In the case of the dismantled group, the members also referred to the theories of the QAnon movement, a far-right conspiratorial group from the United States, according to the prosecution.
Contacts with Russia
“They strongly believe that Germany is currently run by members of a so-called ‘deep state'” and that “the impending intervention of the ‘Alliance’, a technically superior secret society of governments, intelligence services and the military of different countries, including the Russian Federation and the United States of America, will bring “liberation”.
Contacts had also been made by one of the leaders of the cell with “representatives of the Russian Federation in Germany”. According to the investigations carried out so far, however, nothing indicates that these interlocutors reacted positively to the request.
In its plan to eliminate the democratic order, this network was “aware that there will also be deaths”, “an intermediate step deemed necessary” to achieve “system change”. Justice says it has identified a very structured and hierarchical organization composed of a “central body” and a “military arm” responsible for the purchase of equipment for training in weapons of recruitment, but also of “Justice” commissions “, “Foreign Affairs” or “Health”.
Former soldiers are among the protagonists. Most recently, in October, members of the “military arm” scouted Bundeswehr barracks to inspect their ability to accommodate their own troops after their “coup”.
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