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TERRORISM

Update: Police raid far-right group in six German states over ‘attack plans’

Police in Germany arrested twelve men Friday in a nationwide probe into an extreme-right group suspected of planning "attacks on politicians, asylum-seekers and people of Muslim faith," prosecutors said Friday.

Update: Police raid far-right group in six German states over 'attack plans'
A sign marks the headquarters of Germany's intelligence agency. Photo: DPA

The arrests of four prime suspects and eight alleged supporters followed raids, some by heavily-armed special units, which hit 13 locations in six German states.

The raids, some by heavily-armed special units, hit 13 locations in six German states.

Under plans by five prime suspects and eight supporters, “a civil-war-like situation was to be brought about via as yet undefined attacks on politicians, asylum seekers and people of Muslim faith,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.

From its founding in September 2019, the group's ultimate aim was “to shake the state and social order in Germany and in the end to overturn it,” investigators believe.

Alongside the five prime suspects, the eight supporters “are believed to have agreed to provide financial support, procure weapons or take part in future attacks,” prosecutors said.

Investigators launched Friday's raids to determine whether the suspects already had weapons or other supplies that could be used in an attack.

So far, no-one has been arrested over the alleged attack plot, prosecutors said.

Far-right in Germany

German authorities have turned increased attention to the country's underground extreme right scene since the murder of conservative local politician Walter Lübcke last June and an October attack on a synagogue in eastern city Halle.

Suspects arrested in both cases have ties to the extreme right.

Interior minister Horst Seehofer announced in December 600 new posts across the federal police and domestic security services to track far-right extremist threats, citing a growing danger.

At the time, federal police said they had identified 48 people on the extreme right as “dangerous” individuals who could carry out an attack.

READ ALSO: 'A new strategy': How Germany is stepping up fight against far-right extremism

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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