German police are searching for a fifth suspect after four people were arrested for what’s described as an elaborate plot to cripple the country and spark a civil war over COVID restrictions. The alleged scheme is said to have included a plan to kidnap Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and sabotage utility facilities to cause a nationwide power outage.
Police on Thursday searched 20 residential properties and confiscated dozens of weapons, including a Kalashnikov assault rifle and weapons. They said they also found foreign currency, gold bars, and silver coins to be used to fund the foiled plan that was “intended to cause civil war-like conditions and ultimately overthrow the democratic system in Germany,” the state prosecutor said in announcing the arrests.
Police made the arrests after surveilling a Telegram chat group called Vereinte Patrioten, which translates to United Patriots.
Police also found a stash of fake vaccination certificates and negative COVID tests that would have been needed to gain entry to carry out the plot. Last week Germany’s lower house of parliament voted down a vaccine mandate for people over age 60 after Chancellor Olaf Scholz failed to win support.
“The two main suspects are believed to have agreed with others to mount an attack on the federal health minister,” Koblenz prosecutor’s office said. They are part of a far-right Reichsbürger group that believes that the modern German state is illegitimate.
In a separate incident Wednesday, German prosecutors also charged a young neo-Nazi with ties to the U.S.-based Atomwaffen Division over allegations he was trying to start a “race war” and “found a terrorist organization” to “preserve the white population.” Prosecutors say that he intended to commit “a serious and dangerous act of violence” against the state and has been jailed since September 2021.
The latest threats come after a similar plot was said to be foiled in December, when police found hunting weapons, including crossbows and sharp spikes, in the city of Dresden that were intended to be used to kidnap local Saxony Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer. The group found responsible for that attack had around 130 far-right anti-vax sympathizers.
Lauterbach, who said despite the kidnapping plot he will continue to work, warned that more threats could come. “This shows that COVID protests have not just radicalized,” he said Thursday, according to Reuters. “But that this is about more than just COVID.”