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German police launch raids in Dresden over anti-vax death threats to governor

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
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Michael Kretschmer, governor of the German state of Saxony at a press conference at the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) HQ in Berlin, Sept. 20, 2021.
Michael Kretschmer, governor of the German state of Saxony at a press conference at the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) HQ in Berlin, Sept. 20, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Michael Sohn

Police in eastern Germany are investigating threats to kill a state governor over coronavirus restrictions and vaccinations.

Several properties in Dresden were being raided early on Wednesday in a probe into plans for "serious violent crime", police said on Twitter.

The investigation was triggered by reports last week that an anti-vaccine group discussed plans to kill Saxony's CDU state governor, Michael Kretschmer, and other members of the state government on the messenger service Telegram.

Dresden --the capital of Saxony -- has seen frequent protests against coronavirus restrictions and has Germany's lowest vaccination rate.

Kretschmer said that threats against officials, scientists, and journalists “are unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and will be pursued with all our strength.”

According to the ZDF report, the group's 103 members shared a rejection of vaccinations, the state, and the current coronavirus policy.

The Telegram channel featured audio messages in which people called for measures to be opposed “with armed force if necessary,” directed against Kretschmer and others.

"The statements of some members of the group suggested that they might be in possession of real weapons and crossbows," the police said in a statement, without indicating whether any arrests had been made.

Tom Bernhardt, a spokesman for Saxony’s state criminal police office, said that six members of the Telegram group are under investigation.

The police investigation -- assisted by special intervention forces -- began one day after the ZDF report was published.

Faced with a violent fourth wave of the pandemic, the German government has decided to tighten restrictions on unvaccinated people, who are now unable to access most public places, restaurants, and non-essential shops.

Kretschmer was one of the first state leaders to cancel events like Christmas markets and restrict access for the unvaccinated to some public places.

Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician Sebastian Fiedler, an expert on security issues, told the Bild newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday that an estimated 15,000-20,000 opponents of the health measures are ready to use violence.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Olaf Scholz told parliament on Wednesday that Germany will not tolerate "a tiny minority of uninhibited extremists trying to impose its will on the whole of our society.”