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The Germany coup plot: How QAnon is dangerously evolving in Europe

Experts say unlike groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, when it comes to QAnon, there’s no centralized structure or leadership that can be targeted.


In addition to Heinrich, those arrested include a member of the far-right Alternative For Germany party who had served in parliament, a Russian citizen, and a number of former German soldiers.

According to law enforcement officials, the heavily armed group had formed a shadow government it planned to install in power if the plot had succeeded, though it’s not clear how close they got to acting on their plans. Prosecutors also say the group was heavily influenced by the online conspiracy QAnon, which has been heavily influential in American politics.


After Wednesday’s arrests, the movement will be even harder to ignore.


QAnon ideology fits in with other right-wing conspiracy movements

The group, which involves former members of the German military, was prepared to use “violence” and “military means” with the intention of “overcoming the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with its own form of government.”


QAnon really gained momentum in Europe during covid

The Hanau case highlighted the degree to which QAnon-style beliefs often overlap and dovetail with other far-right causes. “QAnon is almost like a parasite. It just kind of latches on to these other extremist movements and ingratiates itself,” Colin Clarke, a counterterrorism and extremism researcher at the Soufan Center, told Grid.

European governments are starting to do what their U.S. counterparts have done: put a greater emphasis on right-wing extremism as a whole. The German government recently announced a plan consisting of 89 measures to tackle right-wing extremism at a societal level. The country’s Defense Ministry has also announced measures to combat the increasing problem of far-right infiltration of the country’s military.

“This is a huge inflection point for Europe,” said Clarke. “They’ve been so focused on jihadists, and they still have a bigger problem with homegrown jihadism than we do, but they’re also dealing with the rise of the far right.”

Clarke says that one challenge in addressing the problem is that unlike groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, when it comes to QAnon, there’s no centralized structure or leadership that can be targeted.

“The Russians are always surfacing in these stories, right?” Clarke noted. “They try to amplify divisive issues, many of them conspiratorial. That’s a key component of what they do in the social media space. It’s low-hanging fruit for them and when you look at how it ties up Western security agencies dealing with this stuff, they clearly get a return on investment.”

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