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.