German far-right group planned mosque massacres

German far-right group planned mosque massacres
Twelve men were arrested in police raids nationwide, uncovering a stash of weapons that included a pistol, a homemade gun, hand grenades, axes and a crossbow. (AFP)
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Updated 18 February 2020

German far-right group planned mosque massacres

German far-right group planned mosque massacres
  • Group planned to use arsenal of weaponry to attack Muslims and ignite ‘civil war’
  • Far-right violence is a growing concern in Germany

German police have thwarted a plot by a far-right group to carry out attacks on mosques across the country.

Twelve men were arrested in police raids nationwide, uncovering a stash of weapons that included a pistol, a homemade gun, hand grenades, axes and a crossbow. The weapons were stockpiled for attacks on 10 locations.

The group, which the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported met through WhatsApp, includes one man said to have an administrative job within the local police in the North Rhine-Westphalia region.

The 12 suspects remain in custody and have yet to be charged. Police continue to seek a 13th member of the group who remains at large.

Prosecutors said the men, who called themselves the Hard Core, wanted to cause “circumstances akin to a civil war” by plotting “attacks against politicians, asylum-seekers and Muslims.”

Leaked excerpts from their conversations reveal a plan to attack mosques in the hopes of retaliatory attacks from Germany’s Muslims and an uprising against the political system.

Abdassamad El-Yazidi, secretary-general of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, described the group’s plans as reaching “unprecedented dimensions in Germany.”

He said Muslims in the country feel “highly insecure”, “abandoned” and “frightened,” and the lack of a “clear, strong expression of solidarity” from wider society is contributing heavily to these feelings.

In response to the group’s alleged intentions, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said Germany will work to preserve the right of people to practice their religion without danger.

“It is the task of the state, and of course of this government, to protect the free practice of religion in this country, no matter what religion it is,” he said.

Far-right violence is a growing concern in Germany, which last year saw a known neo-Nazi fatally shoot a city president who was supportive of Merkel’s asylum policies.


Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests

Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests
Updated 19 min 9 sec ago

Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests

Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests
  • The first protests took place in the Far East and Siberia
  • Authorities vowed a tough crackdown with police saying unsanctioned public events would be “immediately suppressed”

MOSCOW: Russian police detained dozens of protesters on Saturday as supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny took to the streets following his call to protest against President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
Putin’s most vocal domestic critic called for mass rallies after surviving a near-fatal poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent and returning to Moscow last weekend following months of treatment in Germany. He was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport and jailed.
The rallies — planned for dozens of cities across Russia — are expected to be a major test of the opposition’s ability to mobilize despite the increasing Kremlin pressure on critics and the coronavirus pandemic.
The first protests took place in the Far East and Siberia including Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Chita where several thousand took to the streets, Navalny supporters said.
OVD Info, which monitors detentions at opposition rallies, said around 50 people were detained in 10 cities.
Authorities vowed a tough crackdown with police saying unsanctioned public events would be “immediately suppressed.”
In Moscow, which usually mobilizes the largest rallies, protesters plan to meet in the central Pushkin Square at 2:00 p.m. (1100 GMT) and then march toward the Kremlin.

On the eve of the rallies, Navalny, who is being held in Moscow’s high-security Matrosskaya Tishina jail, thanked his supporters.
“I know perfectly well that there are lots of good people outside of my prison’s walls and help will come,” he said on Friday.
Navalny’s wife Yulia said she would join the protest in Moscow. “For myself, for him, for our children, for the values and the ideals that we share,” she said on Instagram.
Ahead of the demonstrations several key Navalny aides were taken into police custody for violating protest laws and handed short jail sentences to keep them away from the rallies.
The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said Friday it launched a criminal probe into the calls for unauthorized protests.
A hastily organized court on Monday jailed Navalny for 30 days, and his supporters fear that authorities are preparing to sentence him to a long prison term to silence him.
Navalny’s team this week released an investigation into an opulent Black Sea property allegedly owned by Putin.
The “Putin’s palace” report alleges the Russian leader owns a 17,691 square meter mansion that sits on a property 39 times the size of Monaco and features a casino along with a theater and a hookah lounge complete with a pole-dancing stage.
The two-hour video report had been viewed more than 65 million times since Tuesday, becoming the Kremlin critic’s most-watched YouTube investigation.
The Kremlin has denied the property belongs to Putin.
Many Russians took to social media — including video sharing app TikTok hugely popular with teens — to voice support and urge a large turnout on Saturday.
A hashtag demanding freedom for Navalny was trending on TikTok as Russians flooded the Chinese app with thousands of videos.
Russia’s media watchdog warned online platforms against encouraging minors to participate in the rallies or risk hefty fines.
The watchdog said on Friday that media platforms, including TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, removed content at its request.
Russia’s most popular social network VKontakte blocked groups created to coordinate the protests in different cities.
But a number of public figures — including those who usually steer clear of politics — have spoken out in Navalny’s support.
Navalny, 44, rose to prominence a decade ago and has become the central figure of Russia’s opposition movement, leading large-scale street protests against corruption and electoral fraud.
His arrest drew widespread Western condemnation, with the United States, the European Union, France and Canada all calling for his release.