German group suspected of plotting mosque attack arrested

The Oldschool Society formed in 2014 to carry out attacks against Muslim targets

People participate in a rally by anti-Islam movement Pegida with Germany flags and flags which were proposed by German resistance fighter Josef Wirmer as a national flag in 1944, in Dresden, Germany. Photograph: Matthias Hiekel/EPA

People participate in a rally by anti-Islam movement Pegida with Germany flags and flags which were proposed by German resistance fighter Josef Wirmer as a national flag in 1944, in Dresden, Germany. Photograph: Matthias Hiekel/EPA

 

German authorities said on Wednesday they had arrested four members of a far-right terrorist group on suspicion of plotting to attack Islamic extremists, mosques and shelters for migrants seeking asylum.

Federal prosecutors said the group, which called itself the Oldschool Society, was formed in November 2014, at the latest, for the purpose of carrying out attacks against Muslim targets and shelters for asylum seekers. There were no clear indications that attacks were imminent, the federal prosecutors said, but they had moved against the group based on intelligence gathered by domestic security authorities.

“Based on evidence gathered thus far, the goal of the organisation was to carry out attacks, in smaller groups, on well-known Salafists, mosques and shelters for asylum seekers within Germany,” the prosecutors said in a statement. Among the items seized were “powerful explosives” acquired by the group, they said.

The arrests come at a time when Germany has seen a backlash against immigration. Roughly 200,000 migrants arrived in Germany last year, many of them from Syria and Africa, seeking asylum in the country even as it struggles to better integrate its sizable Muslim population.

This year, thousands of Germans took part in weekly anti-immigrant marches in the eastern city of Dresden, organized by a group known as Pegida, a German acronym for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West.

The arrests also follow an attack in Texas in which two men opened fire at an event featuring cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that had been organized by Pamela Geller, a conservative blogger who has been critical of Islam. Both attackers were shot and killed at the scene.

Two of the people arrested in Germany - identified only as Andreas H, (56) and Markus W, (39), in keeping with German laws on personal privacy - were believed to be the group’s leaders, the prosecutors said. Two people thought to be members of the group, identified as Olaf O, (47), and Denise Vanessa G, (22), were also arrested after searches in several German states, they said.

The authorities said there was no indication that any of the suspects, all of whom are German citizens, had links to Pegida, although prosecutors said searches and arrests were conducted in the state of Saxony, of which Dresden is the capital.

The authorities also carried out their operation in Bavaria in the south, Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in the west, and in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, prosecutors said in a statement.

In November 2011, German authorities uncovered a neo-Nazi terrorist group that had killed several people over a decade, including immigrants and a police officer, raising troubling questions about the police and domestic security services, which led to changes in how they operate. The sole surviving member of that cell has been on trial since 2013.

New York Times