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German health minister says would-be kidnappers aimed to destabilize state

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said a foiled plot to kidnap him showed that there were forces at play that were using protests against COVID-19 restrictions to destabilize the state and the country’s democratic system.
Prosecutors said earlier on Thursday they had detained four people suspected of plotting to kidnap the minister and destroy power facilities to cause a nationwide power outage.
“This is small minority in our society, but they are highly dangerous,” Lauterbach told a news conference.
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The suspects were affiliated with groups that protested against COVID-19 restrictions, and with the far-right “Reichsbuerger” movement, which denies the existence of the modern German state, the prosecutor’s office in the western city of Koblenz said in a statement.
“This shows that COVID-19 protests have not just radicalized but that this is about more than just COVID-19,” Lauterbach said.
The plot to kidnap him is the latest in a series of incidents that have highlighted the anger of some Germans over restrictions on those not vaccinated and proposals to make vaccination compulsory for the general public.
In December, police foiled a plot by anti-vaccination activists to murder the state premier of Saxony in eastern Germany.
Germany’s vaccination campaign is faltering with around 76.6 percent of the population having received at least one dose – less than in other western European countries such as Italy or Spain, where the figures are well above 80 percent.
Germany’s lower house of parliament last week rejected mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for people over 60, in another defeat for Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who already had to drop plans for vaccine mandate for all adults because he could not muster a parliamentary majority.
The suspects behind the latest plot communicated in a chat group called Vereinte Patrioten, German for United Patriots, and “intended to cause civil war-like conditions and ultimately overthrow the democratic system in Germany,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Authorities searched 20 properties in several German states on Wednesday, confiscating weapons including guns, ammunition and a Kalashnikov assault rifle, cash in euros and foreign currency as well as gold bars and silver coins.
They also found forged vaccination certificates and COVID-19 tests, the office said.
The office has asked a judge to issue arrest warrants for the four detained suspects, all of whom are German nationals. A fifth suspect is at large.
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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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