Police officer shot during raids in German Reichsbuerger probe

FILE PHOTO: Weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin

By Madeline Chambers

BERLIN (Reuters) -A German police officer was shot and wounded during raids on properties across the country linked to investigations into the far-right Reichsbuerger movement which is accused of plotting to overthrow the government, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

One person, identified as Markus L., was detained on suspicion of several counts of attempted murder and grievous bodily harm after shots were fired in the southern town of Reutlingen, near Stuttgart, the prosecutors said.

The searches follow raids in December, when German police foiled a plot by members of the Reichsbuerger movement to stage a violent coup and install aristocrat Heinrich XIII Prinz Reuss as national leader.

Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich) do not recognise modern-day Germany as a legitimate state.

The raids in eight German states and in Switzerland, targeted five individuals suspected of belonging to a terrorist organisation and a further 14 people who were not suspects but may have possessed useful material, prosecutors said.

Spiegel Online reported that among the suspects and witnesses whose properties were searched, were several members of the German security services. Investigators were also interested in three police officers, four reservists and a naval captain, it said.

Prosecutors were not immediately available to comment.

Germany's domestic intelligence service Verfassungsschutz put the Reichsbuerger movement under observation in 2016.

Today, the agency says some 21,000 people adhere to the movement, with around 5% of them seen as far-right extremists. Authorities have been worried in particular over the ownership of weapons in the movement.

"Federal prosecutors had 20 properties searched today. The measure is related to the Reichsbuerger scene. A policeman was shot," Justice Minister Marco Buschmann tweeted.

"This shows how dangerous the missions are. It is the duty of the authorities to disarm Reichsbuerger," he said.

Markus L. was initially being treated as a witness rather than as a suspect. On entering his apartment, police officers identified themselves, said prosecutors.

"They encountered Markus L. in the living room where he was already pointing a high-calibre gun at officers, they said, adding he ignored repeated requests to put down the weapon.

"In an exchange of fire, a police officer was shot in the arm," prosecutors said in a statement. He was then detained.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said Germany's gun laws needed to be tightened.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Friederike Heine, Miranda Murray, Bernadette Baum and Alison Williams)