German Far-Right Antivaxxers Plotted to Kidnap Health Minister

The plot, which was hatched on a Telegram group, was foiled after police raids that also found 22 guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and gold bars.
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file photo. photo: getty images 

German authorities have foiled a plot by far-right COVID conspiracists to kidnap the country’s health minister and cripple the country’s power network, prosecutors said Thursday.

Police arrested four people on Wednesday following raids in nine German states over the plot, which was organised on the Telegram by a group called the “United Patriots.” As well as belonging to the radical COVID conspiracist scene, prosecutors said that the accused were “Reichsbuergers” (“citizens of the Reich”) – followers of a German strain of sovereign citizen ideology which claims the modern Federal Republic is illegitimate.

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In a statement, prosecutors said the accused, aged 41 to 55, intended their attacks to create “conditions similar to civil war,” as part of their ultimate goal “to overthrow the democratic system in Germany.”

READ: COVID conspiracies are supercharging Germany’s far-right

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, the target of the kidnapping plot, said that the case highlighted the dangers posed by the country’s radicalised COVID conspiracy theorists, who in some cases sought to topple the state.

"This shows that COVID protests have not just radicalised, but that this is about more than just COVID," he said.

"This is a small minority in our society, but they are highly dangerous.”

READ: German police launch massive raid of suspected neo-Nazis

Wednesday’s raids, which involved 270 police officers targeting 20 locations, netted 22 firearms, including a Kalashnikov, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and gold bars. Authorities had been investigating the group since October, prosecutors said.

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According to German public broadcaster ARD, the plot had gathered pace recently, with members making plans to buy weapons in the coming week.

German domestic intelligence has previously warned of the threat posed by the country’s radicalised COVID conspiracy movement, which includes pronounced Reichsbuerger and neo-Nazi strands. In December, police foiled a plot by radical COVID conspiracists to murder the premier of the eastern state Saxony.

READ: Radical anti-vaxxers plotted to kill German politician

Nicholas Potter, an expert on right-wing extremism at the Amadeu Antonio Foundation in Berlin, told VICE World News that the plot showed “the clear overlap between the violent far-right and the anti-vax scene, in which the health minister has become public enemy number one.”

“Through attacks on Germany’s electricity infrastructure, they apparently sought to bring about civil war-like conditions, or a so-called ‘day X’ – a tactic straight out of the accelerationist playbook.”

So-called “Day X” plots, in which “preppers” arm themselves to carry out a supposed “day of action” in which they will overthrow the state, have become a hallmark of the German accelerationist far-right in recent years.

READ: Far-right ‘Berserker Clan’ accused of prepping for armed uprising