German police conduct raids over alleged COVID death threats

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A police car is seen in the Pieschen district during a raid after threats against Saxony’s Prime Minister Kretschmer, in Dresden, Germany, early Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. Police in eastern Germany are carried out raids in an investigation of alleged threats to kill a state governor and others by opponents of coronavirus restrictions and vaccinations. They said that five properties in Dresden and one in a nearby town were being searched on Wednesday in an investigation of suspected preparations for a serious act of violence. (Robert Michael/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — Police in eastern Germany carried out raids Wednesday in an investigation of alleged threats to kill a state governor and others by opponents of coronavirus restrictions and vaccinations. They said they found weapons including crossbows, but it wasn’t clear whether they were usable.

Five properties in Dresden and one in the nearby town of Heidenau were searched in an investigation of suspected preparations for a serious act of violence, police said.

The investigation was triggered by a report last week on ZDF television that a group on messenger service Telegram discussed plans to kill Saxony’s state governor, Michael Kretschmer, and other members of the state government. Dresden is the capital of Saxony, which has seen frequent protests against coronavirus policy and has Germany’s lowest vaccination rate.

According to the report, the group’s 103 members shared a rejection of vaccinations, the state and the current coronavirus policy. It featured audio messages in which people urged opposing policy measures “with armed force if necessary,” directed against Kretschmer and others. Police have said that comments by some members on their alleged possession of weapons and crossbows are part of the investigation.

Tom Bernhardt, a spokesman for Saxony’s state criminal police office, said that six members of the Telegram group are under investigation — five men and one woman, all German citizens, ages 32 to 64. He said that police found “crossbows, parts of weapons, and weapons; whether these are capable of firing or are so-called live weapons at all, we will see in the course of the investigation.”

Kretschmer said that threats against officials, scientists and journalists “are unacceptable, will not be tolerated and will be pursued with all our strength.”

Coronavirus restrictions and the prospect of a likely vaccine mandate for all early next year have fueled recent protests in Germany. Security agencies have warned that parts of the Querdenken movement, a loose collection of groups opposed to the pandemic restrictions, are becoming increasingly radicalized.

New Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a speech to parliament Wednesday that “we won’t put up with a tiny minority of uninhibited extremists trying to impose its will on the whole of our society.”

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