May 19, 2024

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s top prosecutor has taken over the investigation into an alleged arson attack on the power supply of the electric car company Tesla near Berlin.

A spokeswoman said there is an initial suspicion that a terrorist organization may have been involved in the attack. In such cases, the federal prosecutor’s office, the top law enforcement agency in Germany, is responsible for the investigation.

On Tuesday, production at Tesla’s electric vehicle plant in Gruenheide came to a standstill and workers were evacuated after a power outage that officials suspected was caused by arson. Tens of thousands of residents, nearby hospitals, nursing homes and a big logistics center for a German grocery chain were also affected.

Authorities in the state of Brandenburg, where the plant is located, said unidentified people were suspected of deliberately setting fire to a high-voltage transmission line on a power pylon.

A far-left organization called the Volcano Group said it was behind the fire and accused Tesla in a letter of confession of “extreme exploitation conditions” and called for the “complete destruction of the gigafactory,” German news agency dpa reported.

The police believe that the letter is genuine and are looking for witnesses who can provide information about the incident and possible suspects.

While electricity for residents has been restored, Tesla is still without power and the company has said that the damage cause by the outage is in the millions. It may take until the end of next week before Tesla will have electricity again, local media reported.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, condemned the incident, writing on X, formerly Twitter, that “these are either the dumbest eco-terrorists on Earth or they’re puppets of those who don’t have good environmental goals.”

“Stopping production of electric vehicles, rather than fossil fuel vehicles, ist extrem dumm,” he added in his post on Tuesday, using German for “extremely stupid.”

The power outage came as environmental activists have been protesting in a forest near the plant against plans by Tesla to expand. Dozens of activists have put up tents and built treehouses, a tactic used in previous environmental protests.

Tesla opened the factory in March 2022, launching a challenge to German automakers on their home turf.

The company wants to expand the facility to add a freight depot, warehouses and a company kindergarten. Those plans would entail felling more than 100 hectares (247 acres) of forest.

That has drawn opposition from environmentalists and some other local groups, which also worry about the possible effect on the area’s water supply. In a nonbinding vote in mid-February, residents of the municipality rejected Tesla’s plans, which still need approval by local authorities.

About 12,500 people work at the plant.

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