BERLIN: German police detained 12 men, including one of its own officers, on Friday (Feb 14) suspected of setting up a far-right organisation with the goal of carrying out attacks against politicians, asylum seekers and Muslims, the Federal Prosecutor's Office (GBA) said.
The arrests followed raids, some by heavily-armed special units, which hit 13 locations in six German states.
Prosecutors said four of the suspects had set up a "terrorist organisation" in September 2019 and regularly met and contacted each other by phone and in online chart forums and chat groups. They had no immediate plan to carry out an attack.
The other eight men were detained on suspicion of supporting the organisation with money and weapons, the GBA said.
The suspects wanted their attacks to create havoc and an atmosphere of fear that resembles a civil war, it added.
"The goal of the organisation was to shake and eventually destroy the democratic system and social cohesion of the federal republic," the GBA said.
"For the purpose of creating conditions that resemble a civil war, attacks that were not yet concrete against politicians, asylum seekers and members of the Muslim faith were planned."
The twelve included a police officer previously suspended over suspicions he had links to the far-right, a source at the interior ministry in North-Rhine Westphalia state told AFP, though it was not immediately clear if he was one of the prime suspects.
Investigators launched Friday's raids to determine whether the suspects already had weapons or other supplies that could be used in an attack.
The twelve men are set to appear before a court on Friday or Saturday to hear whether they will be imprisoned on remand.
FAR-RIGHT IN SPOTLIGHT
German authorities have turned increased attention to the country's underground extreme right scene since the murder of conservative local politician Walter Luebcke last June and an October attack on a synagogue in eastern city Halle.
Suspects arrested in both cases have ties to the extreme right.
According to Spiegel magazine, police discovered several weapons in Friday's raids, including one self-made "slam gun" similar to the one used in the Halle attack.
Interior minister Horst Seehofer announced in December 600 new posts across the federal police and domestic security services to track far-right extremist threats, citing a growing danger.
At the time, federal police said they had identified 48 people on the extreme right as "dangerous" individuals who could carry out an attack.
Reacting to reports of the arrests on Friday, a spokesman for the Federal Interior Ministry said that measures to protect religious institutions would be reviewed by local authorities.
A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, said that threats to attack Islamic institutions in Germany amounted to "abominable behaviour".
"We as the federal government feel an obligation to ensure that anyone in Germany can practice their religion within the bounds of our legal order," said Steffen Seibert at a government press conference.