German investigators have searched properties in nine different states linked to members of a chat group suspected of planning to plant explosives and kidnap “well-known public figures” including the country’s health minister.
Prosecutors in Koblenz in western Germany said that raids were carried out on Wednesday in 20 properties in total, with about 270 officers deployed, including special police units.
The suspects in the chat group “Vereinte Patrioten” (United Patriots) are said to be linked to protests against coronavirus restrictions and to the so-called “Reichsbürger” movement, which rejects the authority of the state.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said he would not by “distracted” by the alleged threats.
“Some COVID deniers are not fighting against vaccinations or coronavirus requirements. They are fighting against our basic democratic basic order,” he told the Bild newspaper.
A total of 12 people from the chat group are being investigated for preparing a serious act of violence threatening the state and violating weapons legislation.
They are accused of intending to destroy power supply facilities in order to trigger a nationwide blackout and cause “civil war-like conditions”, said the Rhineland-Palatinate attorney general’s office.
During the searches police seized weapons, ammunition, cash, gold bars and silver coins.
Four suspects were arrested.
The investigation against the group started in October.