German anti-terror police uncover hidden paramilitary training camps for far-right extremists

By Lizzie Dearden

Guns, weapons and drugs have been seized from a network of right-wing extremists operating paramilitary training camps in German forests amid fears of a potential attack.

Investigators in the state of Thuringia said at least 13 known suspects were part of the group, including some from an “internationally active right-wing movement”.

The state office of criminal investigation said short and long-range guns, ammunition and other weaponry was uncovered alongside a small amount of drugs.

Police also seized right-wing propaganda, mobile phones and computers in dawn raids at 14 properties in Thuringia, Erfurt and Göttingen, in Lower Saxony.

A spokesperson said the operation targeted a “criminal organisation” accused of setting up paramilitary training camps in the region’s forests, adding: “Some of the suspects are believed to be members of an internationally-active right-wing extremist movement, which aims to abolish the social and governmental order of Germany and other European states.”

The raids were coordinated by Germany’s GSG 9 counter-terror force, supported by police from six states. Authorities did not confirm whether the group was plotting an attack.

During the searches, a man who was not originally under investigation was arrested for attacking and injuring two officers.

Another suspect was arrested for using symbols of “unconstitutional organisations” – a phrase frequently used by Germany authorities to refer to Nazi-era memorabilia and symbols including the swastika.

Officials said the suspect found with “numerous” guns was believed to be a member of the so-called Reichsbürger movement, which claims the current German state is illegitimate and is alleged to have neo-Nazi links.

Police are now investigating whether to withdraw his firearms licence.

A Reichsbürger shot a police officer dead during a raid in Bavaria in October, shocking Germany and prompting a government crackdown on resurgent far-right groups.

Politicians from Germany’s Die Linke party claimed the network uncovered on Friday was linked to the far-right Europäische Aktion (European Action) group, which was founded by a Swiss Holocaust denier in 2008.

Europäische Aktion’s stated aims include creating a European “confederation” that would abolish the Euro and the EU, force the return of anyone judged to be non-Europeans to their countries of origin, and abolish Germany and Austria in favour of a “Reich” with pre-Second World War borders.

Its Facebook page, which remains online, propagates neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and white supremacist ideology claiming the existence of a “long-planned campaign to exterminate the indigenous peoples of Europe” with an “invasion” from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Europäische Aktion’s members are based in Germany, Switzerland and Austria but active in a far wider set of countries including the UK, France, Hungary, Spain and Sweden.

Die Welt reported that the organisation was intending to dissolve and re-form under a different name to evade investigations by authorities.

Germany has been shaken by a series of Isis-related terror attacks, as well as the Reichsbürger murder and foiled plots from both Islamists and the far-right.

Earlier this year, a Bundeswehr soldier was found posing as a Syrian refugee to plot a false flag shooting attack that prosecutors said aimed to turn Germany against migrants.

A group of extremists from the far-right Oldschool Society group have been put on trial for plotting to attack accommodation for asylum seekers, while a homemade bomb emblazoned with a swastika and symbol of the Nazi SS was discovered earlier this year.

Thousands of attacks on refugee centres have been documented as part of a rise in political violence by both the right and left wing, amid heightened tensions over the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers in Germany and sex attacks in Cologne.

On Thursday, the Bundestag voted to cut off state funding for the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), which narrowly escaped being banned earlier this year.

The party, viewed by Germany's intelligence agency as racist, anti-Semitic and revisionist, has never won a seat in the federal parliament and has lost all its seats in regional assemblies.

But it retains representatives on local councils, and so receives about €1m (£880,000) a year from the German government.

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