German police launched nationwide raids on Wednesday and arrested 25 members and supporters of a far-right terror group suspected of planning an attack on parliament and aiming to overthrow the German state, federal prosecutors said.
More than 3,000 officers including elite anti-terror units took part in the early morning raids and searched more than 130 properties, in what German media described as one of the largest police actions the country has ever seen.
One active soldier and several reservists are among those being investigated. The active soldier is a member of the Special Forces Command, a report in Reuters said.
A 71-year-old man, who goes by the nickname Heinrich XIII, is believed to be central to the mob’s plan. Police said that they have arrested two ringleaders during the operation, BBC reported.
The raids targeted alleged members of the “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbuerger) movement suspected of “having made concrete preparations to violently force their way into the German parliament with a small armed group”, prosecutors said in a statement.
Those arrested are accused of having formed “a terrorist group by the end of November 2021 at the latest, which had set itself the goal of overcoming the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with their own kind of state”, they said.
Two of the 25 arrests were made abroad, in Austria and Italy. Those detained will be questioned later in the day.
The Reichsbuerger movement includes neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and gun enthusiasts who reject the legitimacy of the modern German republic.
Long dismissed as malcontents and oddballs, the Reichsbuerger have become increasingly radical in recent years and are seen as a growing security threat. Former soldiers are believed to be among the members of the recently established terror group, federal prosecutors said.
“The accused are united by a deep rejection of state institutions and the free, democratic basic order of the Federal Republic of Germany,” they said.
The group had been plotting a violent coup since November 2021, federal prosecutor said.
The suspects were aware that their plan “could only be realised by using military means and violence against state representatives,” they added.
According to Germany’s internal intelligence agency, there are around 16,500 members of the group in the country, many of whom are ready to commit “serious acts of violence”. The group is known for stockpiling ammunition and firearms, which were discovered during previous raids.
Justice Minister Marco Buschmann praised the dismantling of the “suspected terror cell” on Twitter, saying it showed that Germany was able to defend its democracy.
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