Muslim communities in Germany have called for more police protection after the arrest of members of a rightwing extremist group that is believed to have been plotting large-scale attacks on mosques around the country.
Twelve men who were arrested following police raids on Friday had been planning attacks using semi-automatic weapons on worshippers during prayers in 10 German states, said to have been inspired by those carried out in New Zealand last year, according to a government spokesman.
Investigators had been following the men for months, monitoring their conversations and online activity, after suspecting them of having formed a terror group.
They eavesdropped on a meeting in North Rhine-Westphalia earlier this month in which the alleged ringleader, 53-year-old Werner S, outlined the group’s concrete plans for “commandos” to attack Muslims in small communities across the country. Two of the men were elected to acquire weapons, and all members were expected to contribute towards a €50,000 (£42,000) fund to finance the operation.
German prosecutors spoke of the planned attacks as “mosque massacres” inspired by the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in spring 2019, in which 51 people were killed by a gunman.
According to the men’s discussions, the attacks were intended to provoke revenge attacks and to evolve into a civil war, authorities said. Four of the arrested men are being treated as suspected terrorists, eight as accomplices, including an administrative police clerk.
The plot came to light after a police informer managed to infiltrate the group.