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Sunday Feb 16 2020

At least 12 men detained in Germany over suspicion of attacks on politicians, Muslims

One of 12 men suspected of involvement in a far-right group is escorted by police as he arrives for his hearing at Germany's general prosecutor in Karlsruhe , Germany, February 15, 2020. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

BERLIN: German prosecutors won a court order to detain 12 men arrested on suspicion of involvement in a far-right plot to overthrow the political order by means of targeted attacks, including on politicians, Muslims, and asylum seekers.

The men were arrested on Friday — four on suspicion of forming a right-wing terrorist organisation last September and the rest of offering them financial support. A federal court judge ordered them detained pending further investigations on Saturday, prosecutors said.

Popular support for far-right groups is growing in Germany — notably in the country’s former Communist east — as part of a polarisation at both ends of the political spectrum that is undermining the mainstream establishment that been in government since World War Two.

Aged between 20 and 50, the men named their group ‘Der harte Kern’ (The Hard Core), the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday, saying they had been arrested in six different states.

The suspects, some with blankets draped over their heads, were escorted by police wearing balaclavas and body armour into the Federal Court in Karlsruhe for Saturday’s hearing, Reuters TV footage showed.

Citing investigators, Welt am Sonntag said the men had got to know each other via WhatsApp and met up subsequently. The group was put under surveillance in late summer 2019. In the raids, investigators found stores of materials that could be used to produce home-made bombs, the newspaper wrote.

No further comment was immediately available from federal prosecutors.

German law allows for individuals suspected of being on the verge of committing serious offences to be detained for up to six months, extendable to 12 months in extreme cases, according to legal experts.