Searches carried out in Dresden after plans for the killing discussed on Telegram messaging group
German police have carried out armed raids on several locations in the eastern state of Saxony in connection with a plot by anti-vaccination activists to murder the state’s prime minister, Michael Kretschmer.
The searches at five addresses in the city of Dresden and one in the nearby town of Heidenau targeted members of a group on the messaging service Telegram where plans for the killing were discussed in connection with the state government’s coronavirus curbs, police said. According to reports, the members included a 34-year-old woman and four men aged between 32 and 64.
Germany’s new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, used an address in parliament on Wednesday morning to condemn what he called a “tiny minority of disinhibited extremists” who were “trying to impose their will on our entire society”, in response to a rise in recent weeks in protests opposing coronavirus measures.
The group Dresden Offlinevernetzung, or Dresden offline networking, came to the attention of authorities after an investigation released last week by the broadcaster ZDF. The report revealed that members of the Telegram group spoke about killing Kretschmer as well as other representatives of the Saxony state government at meetings in the city.
Special forces took part in the dawn raids on Monday after statements by group members suggested they might be in possession of weapons capable of firing live rounds, Saxony police said on Twitter. Two crossbows were reportedly seized in the raids.
Kretschmer said “all judicial means” would be used to tackle the threats. “People in public office should not have to be scared of expressing their opinion or doing their jobs,” he told German media.
In recent weeks there have been protests by opponents of Covid restrictions in Saxony, which has the second highest rate of new coronavirus cases in Germany and the country’s lowest vaccination rate.
Last month a group of protesters held a torchlit gathering outside the home of Saxony’s interior minister, in what was widely seen as an implicit threat of violence against her.
Mayors, police chiefs and media representatives across Germany have also expressed concern over their safety after about a dozen of them received threatening letters containing pieces of raw steak, stated to be infected with Covid-19 and the deadly gas Zyklon B. The letters warned that a “bloody and unappetising resistance” would be launched against any attempts to impose a vaccine mandate.
Scholz told parliament in his first address to the nation since being inaugurated as chancellor a week ago that the government had respect for “considered doubts” people might hold but would not tolerate threats or violence.
“We want debate. We are open for contrary arguments,” he said. “But we will confront with all the democratic means at our disposal as a constitutional state the tiny minority who deploy torches, who try to intimidate people with violence and death threats.”