Authorities in Germany have arrested a second soldier allegedly involved in a far-right plot to murder a "high-ranking politician or public figure" and frame refugees for the attack, prosecutors have said.
The man, identified as 27-year-old Maximilian T, was detained in Kehl, a town in south-western Germany located on the river Rhine on Tuesday (9 May). Kehl sits directly opposite the French city of Strasbourg.
Maximilian T is believed to be an accomplice of Franco A, a 28-year-old man who was arrested on 26 April after police discovered he had registered as a Syrian refugee – even though he spoke no Arabic – and planned to carry out xenophobic attacks. A 24-year-old student named as Mathias F has also been arrested in connection with the plot.
Maximilian T and Franco A were stationed at the same Franco-German base near Strasbourg.
"The accused is strongly suspected of planning a severe act of violence against the state out of a right-wing extremist conviction," the German prosecutor's office said in a statement.
The pair are believed to have drawn up a list of high-profile targets who they could attack and pin the blame on asylum seekers. "The suspects have classified their possible targets in various categories – there were categories from A to D," Deutsche Welle quoted a spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecutors' office in Karlsruhe as saying.
According to prosecutors, the suspects hoped their assault would "be seen by the population as a radical Islamist terrorist act committed by a recognised refugee."
A list of potential targets prepared by the suspects include former president Joachim Gauck and current Justice Minister Heiko Maas.
Last week German Defence Minister Ursula Von der Leyen blasted what she described as "weak leadership" across the military.
"We have to ask systematically how someone with such clear right-wing extremist views, who writes a master's paper with clearly nationalistic ideas ... could continue to pursue a career in the Bundeswehr," she told reporters, referring to Franco A.
Von der Leyen's remarks provoked an angry backlash and she expressed regret for not counterbalancing her statement with appreciation for the work carried out by a majority of the armed forces, Reuters reported.
However, the defence minister received the support from Angela Merkel on Tuesday as the German chancellor told broadcaster WDR: "This is an unbelievable story with a rightwing extremist background and it was right that the defence minister did not try to minimise it but rather called it what it is."
Merkel added: "We have to investigate whether such a thing occurs often."