Soldiers of Odin
The vigilante Soldiers of Odin claim to protect Europeans from "Islamist intruders" Getty

The Estonian defence minister warned people not to join the vigilante Soldiers of Odin, after the anti-immigrant group announced plans to hold a torchlit procession through the capital Tallinn.

"Those eager to contribute to the security of the society should side with police voluntary helpers, which stand guard over the values of democratic society, have fulfilled the necessary training and have no criminal past," Defence Minister Hannes Hanso said, Russia Today reported.

Founded in the Finnish town of Kemi in October, 2015, the Soldiers of Odin group derives its name from the Norse god of war, and calls itself "a patriotic organisation that fights for a white Finland" to counter crime by "Islamist intruders". In the wake of the sex attacks in Cologne and other European cities in the new year, its popularity soared, with branches also emerging in Norway and Germany.

On Tuesday, 17 February, the group announced on its Facebook page that it had up to 5,000 members in Estonia, and called for volunteers who are willing "to step out for the defence of our own people in the face of strangers." It announced plans to hold a mass gathering of members in Tallinn on 24 February.

The Estonian branch declared itself apolitical, and said only Muslims, those under-18, and those with criminal records involving offences against women and children were barred from joining. It said it plans to set up groups of 10-20 vigilantes in several Estonian cities.

Estonia, which has a population of 1.3 million, has accepted fewer than 1,000 asylum-seekers since the 1990s, and though it has agreed to accept 550 migrants under the EU's relocation plan a single person in the quota has yet to arrive.