In early morning raids on Wednesday, authorities arrested 25 alleged members and supporters of a far-right terrorist organization accused of plotting to violently overthrow the German government.
Roughly 3,000 officers took part in the raids across Germany, and two people were arrested in Austria and Italy, according to a lengthy statement from federal prosecutors. The organization was formed last year and those detained include members of the right-wing extremist Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich) movement and people influenced by QAnon conspiracy theories.
Noting that prosecutors said members believe Germany is ruled by a so-called "deep state," the AP pointed out that "similar baseless claims about the United States were made by former President Donald Trump," who is seeking the GOP's 2024 nomination.
The goal of the German group, which includes ex-soldiers, was "to overcome the existing state order in Germany and to establish its own form of state, the outlines of which have already been developed," prosecutors said. "The members of the organization were aware that this goal can only be achieved through the use of military means and violence against state representatives. This also included commissioning killings."
The organization allegedly had created a ruling council, as well as a military arm and various departments including "foreign," "health," and "justice."
"Investigators are thought to have got wind of the group when they uncovered a kidnap plot last April involving a gang who called themselves United Patriots," the BBC noted. "They too were part of the Reichsbürger scene and had allegedly planned to abduct Health Minister Karl Lauterbach while also creating 'civil war conditions' to bring about an end to Germany's democracy."
As The New York Times detailed:
German news media widely identified the man as Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss, a descendant of a former German royal family. The Reuss family has long distanced itself from Heinrich XIII because of his involvement in the Reichsbürger scene.
Another of those detained, identified by prosecutors as Birgit M.-W., was suspected of being appointed to head the justice arm of the group. German media identified her as Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, a judge in Berlin and member of Alternative for Germany. She served as member of Parliament from 2017 to 2021.
A Russian citizen, whom the prosecutors identified as "Vitalia B.," was "strongly suspected" of supporting Heinrich XIII in trying to establish contacts with Moscow.
In a Wednesday tweet thanking all the authorities involved "for the professional execution of the anti-terror raid," German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said that "this was a logistically highly demanding measure that was carried out successfully" and "it proves: Our democracy is defensive!"