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Far-right Reichsbürger movement much larger than initially estimated

The Reichsbürger scene could be much larger than first thought, according to German intelligence officials. Some 15,000 identify with the self-governing movement, around 1,000 of whom have a license to possess firearms.

Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) on Thursday said it had underestimated the number of people affiliated with self-governing groups, such as the far-right Reichsbürger scene.

A speaker for Germany domestic intelligence agency confirmed a report, first published in the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel, that revealed authorities estimate the number of Reichsbürger, which roughly translates as "Citizens of the Reich," to be around 15,000.

Read more: Far-right Reichsbürger propaganda sold in Rewe supermarket

The number represents a significant step-up from previous estimates. Figures disclosed for last year put the number at around 10,000.

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The latest intelligence also shows that around 900 of those affiliated with the Reichsbürger movement have been identified as far-right extremists, while 1,000 have a license to own firearms.

The radical Reichsbürger movement subscribes to the idea that the 1937 borders of the German Empire still exist and that the modern-day Federal Republic of Germany is an administrative construct and still occupied by the Western powers.

A self-governing threat

The BfV has described the movement as "referring to a historical German Reich, to conspiratorial arguments or to its own definition of natural order." Those who protect the Reichsbürger constitution "fundamentally reject the state, its representatives and the entire legal system."

However, while easily dismissed as crackpots, many Reichsbürger ascribe to right-wing, anti-Semitic and Nazi ideologies. The movement gained significant traction after a member shot dead a policeman in Bavaria in October last year.

BfV President Hans-Georg Maassen on Thursday said authorities would concentrate their efforts in cracking down on the Reichsbürger scene. The danger posed by the movement becomes particularly apparent "when the Reichsbürger believe they have to resort to force to oppose legitimate police and judicial operations," he said.

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dm/sms (dpa, AFP)

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