German police said on Wednesday they had uncovered a plot by anti-vaccination activists in Saxony to murder the eastern German state’s premier, adding to concerns about increasingly violent protests over plans for mandatory vaccinations.
The plot to kill Michael Kretschmer, leader of a state in which COVID-19 infection rates are among the highest in Germany and vaccination rates are the lowest, had been discussed in a group chat on messaging platform Telegram, police said.
Members of the group, called “Dresden Offlinevernetzung”, or Dresden offline network, had suggested in messages on Telegram that they might be in possession of firearms and crossbows, Saxony police said on Twitter.
Police said their investigation had targeted five suspects who were members of the Telegram group, adding that after searches of several sites in Dresden and nearby Heidenau “the initial suspicion was confirmed”.
Protests against new restrictions on the unvaccinated and plans to make vaccinations compulsory for some groups in Germany have recently become more violent, with increased attacks on doctors, politicians, and journalists.
Vaccinations will become mandatory from March 16 for people working in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical practices.
In his first major address to parliament since taking office last week, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday his government would not tolerate violent protests against the coronavirus restrictions.
“We will not put up with a tiny minority of uninhibited extremists trying to force their will on our entire society,” Scholz said.
German broadcaster ARD reported on Tuesday that more than a dozen politicians, media outlets, and public institutions had received letters that threatened “bloody resistance” against the measures and included a wrapped chunk of meat.
In September, a vaccination center in Saxony was the target of an arson attack. Last month, a group of protesters gathered outside the home of Saxony’s interior minister holding lit torches, in what was seen as an implicit threat of violence.