After the major raid on a "Reich Citizens" group, the German security authorities are expecting further suspects and searches due to plans for a coup. In interviews on Wednesday evening, the Presidents of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) as well as the Federal Public Prosecutor were convinced of the seriousness of the coup plans.
The federal prosecutor arrested a total of 25 people yesterday in eleven federal states as well as in Italy and Austria. She accuses 22 of them of being a member of a terrorist organization that wanted to overthrow the political system in Germany. The arrest warrants for 19 suspects were executed by the evening, so they are in custody. For more, this could happen on Thursday.
More than 150 searches
Last night, BKA President Holger Münch named the number of 54 suspects on ZDF's "heute journal" and spoke of more than 150 searches. Weapons were also found in around 50 objects. Münch expected further suspects and searches in the next few days. Around 3,000 officers were involved in the raids yesterday.
According to the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang, the security authorities had had their sights set on the "Reich Citizens" group since spring and had a very clear overview of their development and plans. The plans then became more and more concrete and weapons were procured, said Haldenwang in a ZDF "special". He emphasized: "The German security authorities as a whole had the situation under control at all times. But if it had been up to this group, then the danger was quite real."
BKA boss Münch said they didn't want to wait until the last moment, but wanted to collect enough evidence that it was a terrorist organization. There is still no clarity about the time of the obviously planned coup. However, the BKA president referred to a "council" that makes decisions and a military arm that also procures weapons. "They don't wait until the last moment. But when that's clear, then it's time to strike."
"Assume people were determined"
Attorney General Peter Frank also defended the timing of the raids. There were discussions within the association as to whether certain external events could not have been a reason to strike, said Frank in an ARD "Focal Point". "We assume that the people in the association were determined and also were sure to do something," he emphasized. It was right to take action now in December and put an end to the association.
Terrorism expert Peter Neumann has no doubts about the group's danger. The greatest danger of terrorist violence emanates from so-called Reich citizens, Neumann told the editorial network Germany (RND). "They are capable and willing to carry out serious terrorist attacks against the state," he warned. "They formulate resistance narratives most clearly and claim to have the right and legitimacy to mount armed resistance against the state," said the expert.
The CSU interior expert Andrea Lindholz sees a "new quality" in the willingness to use violence in the scene. "Reich citizens" and self-government are "anything but harmless cranks and conspiracy theorists," said the deputy head of the Union faction of the "Rheinische Post".
Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser also warned against underestimating the group. What makes them so dangerous is "that there was a military arm of them. With people who used to be in the Bundeswehr, so they can also handle weapons," said the SPD politician on the ARD program "Maischberger".
"Take a closer look" at the Bundeswehr and Federal Police
Authorities that deal with weapons, such as the German Armed Forces or the Federal Police, "have to take a closer look," she said. President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Haldenwang, spoke out in the ARD "Tagesthemen" for a security check that all people who are admitted to the federal and state security agencies should go through.
From the point of view of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which works against right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism, the "Reichsbürger" scene has been underestimated for too long. In the past few years, there have always been clear signs that the supporters are prepared to use violence and are apparently also organized, said the extremism researcher Lorenz Blumenthaler, who works for the foundation, of the German Press Agency.
"But especially in security circles, the groups were often laughed at and their enormous potential for danger was taken lightly, despite intensive warnings from civil society." At the latest since the foiled plans to kidnap Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach in April, the topic has also been high on the political agenda, said Blumenthaler. "No one actually laughs anymore today."
USA welcome diligence by German government
The US government has offered support to the German government after the crackdown on the Reich Citizens' Scene. "We remain in close contact with our partners in government and stand ready to help if asked," White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said yesterday when asked whether the US would like Germany, for example Offer intelligence information on the matter.
We welcome the diligence of the German government and its law enforcement agencies in the fight "against violent extremism" and for the "security of their citizens and government institutions".