German health minister says would-be kidnappers aim to destabilize state

Prosecutors said earlier Thursday they had arrested four people suspected of plotting to kidnap the minister and destroy electrical installations to cause a nationwide blackout.

“They are a small minority in our society but they are very dangerous,” Lauterbach told a news conference.

The suspects were affiliated with groups that protested COVID-19 restrictions and the far-right “Reichsbuerger” movement, which denies the existence of the modern German state, the city prosecutor’s office said. Koblenz in a statement.

“It shows that the COVID protests have not only become radicalized, but it’s not just about COVID,” Lauterbach said.

The plot to kidnap him is the latest in a series of incidents that have highlighted anger among some Germans over restrictions on unvaccinated people and proposals to make vaccination compulsory for the general public.

In December, police foiled a plot by anti-vaccination activists to assassinate the prime minister of the eastern German state of Saxony.

The vaccination campaign in Germany is teetering with around 76.6% of the population having received at least one dose – less than in other Western European countries such as Italy or Spain, where the figures are well above 80%.

Germany’s lower house of parliament last week rejected mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for people over 60, in another defeat for Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has already had to drop vaccination mandate plans for all adults because he could not muster a parliamentary majority.

The suspects behind the latest plot communicated in a chat group called Vereinte Patrioten, German for United Patriots, and “intended to cause conditions approaching civil war and ultimately overthrow the democratic system in Germany. “said the prosecutor’s office.

Authorities searched 20 properties in several German states on Wednesday, confiscating weapons including firearms, ammunition and a Kalashnikov assault rifle, euro and foreign currency cash and gold bars and coins silver.

They also found fake vaccination certificates and COVID tests, the office said.

The office has asked a judge to issue arrest warrants for the four detained suspects, all of whom are German nationals. A fifth suspect is on the run.

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Robert Birsel)

James R. Rhodes