German Police Search Homes in Crackdown on Far-Right Extremists

BERLIN (Reuters) -

About 200 German police searched a dozen homes in six states on Wednesday as part of an investigation into a far-right extremist group suspected of planning armed attacks against police, Jews and asylum seekers, the chief federal prosecutor’s office said.

Two of seven suspects were detained and weapons, munitions and explosives were found during the raids, Frauke Koehler, a spokeswoman for the office, told reporters.

A spokesman for the German Justice Ministry said the raids underscored the government’s determination to crack down on ultra-right extremists, whose numbers are rising across Germany.

“This is an important signal against the far-right extremist scene in Germany which shows that our investigative agencies are vigilant and will proceed with great resolve against extremists,” he told a regular government news conference.

The prosecutor’s office said the early-morning raids included searches of the homes of six people believed to have founded the new group, and that of a seventh person who is suspected of helping the group obtain supplies.

“The goal of today’s search measures was to obtain further evidence of the actual creation of a formal group, as well as the alleged planned criminal acts and any potential tools,” it said in a statement.

It said the suspects were largely connected via social media and were believed to have begun planning armed attacks in the spring of 2016.

German officials said the raids were directed against people associated with the “Reichsbuerger,” (Citizens of the Reich) movement, which rejects the modern German state as an illegitimate successor to Nazi-era Germany.

Koehler said a certain ideological closeness to the Reichsbuerger was perceptible but it was necessary to check whether there were actually such connections and how close they were.

Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency put the group under observation in November, weeks after one of its members shot dead a policeman during a raid at his home.

The agency warned last year, following the arrival in Germany of more than a million migrants, that ultra-right extremists – many with links to groups in Europe and the United States – were increasingly ready to commit acts of violence.

The BfV also called for action to halt the emergence of what it called “right-wing terrorist structures.”

The number of far-right extremists seen at risk of committing violent acts jumped to 12,100 in 2016 from 11,800 in 2015, according to a spokeswoman for the interior ministry.

German authorities broke up a suspected ultra-right militant group known as “Oldschool Society” last year.

Wednesday’s raids occurred in Berlin and the states of Baden-Wuerttemerg, Brandenburg, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate and Sachsen-Anhalt.