Police in the German state of Lower Saxony have searched the property of a so-called "Reichsbürger." The extremist grouping has gained support in Germany following the onset of the refugee crisis.
Police in the district surrounding the western German town of Osnabrück have found weapons parts and ammunition at the home of a self-declared "Reichbürger" extremist, according to German media. The man had recently had his gun license revoked.
The man reportedly proved he had sold most of the weapons he had previously registered, but the whereabouts of five of his weapons is still unknown, according to local authorities.
There were no details given for the reason why the license had been withdrawn. However, in Germany, police can use their own discretion to deem an individual "unreliable" enough to take away the document.
The discovery in Lower Saxony on Friday afternoon followed two similar incidents one week ago. In one case, police arrested another follower of the movement in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg; the 43-year-old had kept a number of weapons on his property. In the other, authorities searched the property of a 46-year-old in the Bavarian town of Fürth on the same day, where they discovered ammunition.
The raids were part of a countrywide operation against the "Reichsbürger" movement, which was conducted in six out of 16 German states.
Rejection of authority
The "Reichsbürger" movement is a loosely organized collective of individuals throughout Germany who refuse to recognize the Federal Republic of Germany as the successor state of the Third Reich. They are mainly united by their belief that the German Reich continues to exist in its 1937 borders, despite the defeat of Nazi Germany at the end of WWII. This often manifests in a refusal to pay taxes, the issuance of their own, unrecognized government documents and an overall rejection of authority, coupled with xenophobic and racist undertones.
Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), has only recently started to pay attention to the "Reichbürger" movement, as its adherents remained underground for many years. However, in October 2016, a member of the far-right group wounded three police officers and shot dead another in a shootout near Nuremberg. Police discovered a stockpile of weapons believed to belong to the same extremist group in an ensuing investigation.
Recent government reports indicate that there are about 4,500 people in Germany who identify as "Reichsbürger," which translates literally as "citizen of the Reich." As opposed to other right-wing extremists, the majority of "Reichbürger" are situated in the conservative south of the country, while most other far-right movements tend to draw support from the east.
ss/tj (dpa, epd)