German Authorities Detain Alleged Far-Right Extremists Aiming to Topple Government
Thousands of German police officers conducted searches Wednesday at 130 sites across 11 states, detaining 25 people who allegedly sought to overthrow the government in an armed coup.
The raids were an “anti-terrorism operation,” said Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, noting that the group was “driven by violent coup fantasies and conspiracy ideologies,” the Associated Press reported.
The suspects were linked to the Reich Citizens movement, prosecutors said. The group’s adherents reject Germany’s post-WWII constitution and have issued calls to bring down the government.
Officials detained 22 German citizens on suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization,” and three others—including a Russian citizen—were held on suspicion of supporting the organization. Investigators are looking into another 27 people. One person was detained in Austria and another in Italy.
Prosecutors said that the suspects aimed to replace the government with “their own form of state, which was already in the course of being founded”—an aim that suspects allegedly knew could only be achieved with military means and force, including violence against state representatives and commissioned killings. Prosecutors added that some group members had made “concrete preparations” to storm Germany’s federal parliament with a small armed group.
The group was allegedly influenced by a mélange of conspiracy theories, from QAnon to Reich Citizens to deep state conspiracies.
“The investigation offers an insight into the depths of the terrorist threat within the Reich Citizens milieu,” said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser. “Only the further investigation will provide a clear picture of how far the coup plans had come.”
Early statements from prosecutors said that the group had tasked several members with forming an armed wing, and they planned to obtain weapons and conduct firearms training. It is unclear if the group had managed to amass a cache of weapons.
“Officials have repeatedly warned that far-right extremists pose the biggest threat to Germany’s domestic security,” the AP reported. “This threat was highlighted by the killing of a regional politician and the deadly attack on a synagogue in 2019. A year later, far-right extremists taking part in a protest against the country’s pandemic restrictions tried and failed to storm the Bundestag building in Berlin.
“Faeser announced earlier this year that the government planned to disarm about 1,500 suspected extremists and to tighten background checks for those wanting to acquire guns as part of a broader crackdown on the far right,” the AP continued.
Also in 2022, a German court convicted a military officer known as Franco A. of plotting to attack prominent politicians as part of a right-wing extremism effort to bring down Germany’s democratic government. After the investigation into Franco A. began in 2017, Germany ramped up its scrutiny of military forces—especially regarding anti-democratic extremism and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The country has also targeted financial flows that benefit extremist groups, such as merchandising, music festivals, and martial arts events.
In today’s raids, Der Spiegel reported that the Calw, Germany, barracks of special forces unit KSK was searched (federal prosecutors declined to confirm or deny that the location was searched). The unit has been scrutinized in the past because of alleged far-right involvement by some soldiers, The Guardian reported. Several of the suspects are former members of the military.