Polish authorities have arrested a radical nationalist who planned to blow up parliament and had links to the right-wing extremist who murdered 77 people in Norway last year.
The suspected plot – to detonate a four-tonne bomb outside parliament with the president, prime minister, cabinet and MPs inside – was the first of its kind since Poland threw off Communist rule more than 20 years ago.
It is likely to bring renewed scrutiny of radical right-wing groups fiercely opposed to Poland’s liberal government, and of the way extremists intent on violence share information with each other across Europe.
“This is a new and dramatic experience,” said prime minister Donald Tusk yesterday. “This should be a warning.”
Prosecutors said the suspect, a 45-year-old scientist who works for a university in the southern city of Krakow, planned to plant four tonnes of explosives in a vehicle outside parliament and detonate it remotely.
The plot had parallels with the case of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian who set off a bomb in Oslo last year and then went on a gun rampage.
“The would-be bomber did not hide his fascination with Breivik. This should not be ignored,” Mr Tusk said.
The prime minister said that investigators had also found practical connections to Breivik: the Norwegian bought bomb components in Poland, and an analysis of his contacts helped lead Polish intelligence officials to the suspect.
Briefing reporters in the Polish capital, prosecutors said the suspect had assembled a small arsenal of explosive material, guns and remote-controlled detonators and was trying to recruit others to help him.
A video recording taken from the suspect, who has not been publicly identified, showed what prosecutors said was a test explosion he conducted, sending up a huge cloud of dust and leaving a large crater in the ground.
Prosecutor Mariusz Krason said: “He claims that he was acting on nationalistic, anti-Semitic and xenophobic motives. He believed the situation in the country is going in the wrong direction, described the people ruling Poland as foreign and said they were not true Poles.
“He carried out reconnaissance in the neighbourhood of the Sejm [parliament]. This building was to be the target.”
Poland is one of several European countries where far-right groups have become more visible in the past few years, a trend some scholars say is partly linked to hardship caused by the financial crisis.
In Hungary, opinion polls show strong support for the far-right Jobbik opposition party. Greece’s ultra-nationalist Gold Dawn is backed by 10 per cent of the population.
Roger Eatwell, a professor at Britain’s Bath University who studies the far right, said that extremists share information across Europe’s borders.
He said: “They look at each other through the internet, they sometimes correspond with each other through the internet … they are very hard to police.”
In Poland, society is polarised between liberals, who back the government, and a substantial number of people who believe the country is neglecting its Catholic roots and succumbing to foreign influence.
A rally in Warsaw this month by right-wing nationalists turned violent, with flares and stones thrown at police.