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Ex-Red Army Faction members tied to heist

Former members of the leftist militant Red Army Faction have been linked to a botched robbery of an armored van. The RAF disbanded in 1998 after a campaign of terror across Germany that went on for several decades.

Three former members of the disbanded extreme leftist RAF who remain at large have reportedly been linked to a failed armored car robbery attempt near Bremen last summer, German officials said Tuesday.

In June, three masked assailants fired on a cash transport outside a supermarket near the northern city of Bremen. No injuries were reported in the robbery attempt.

DNA tests carried out on two cars used in the robbery turned up genetic matches with Daniela Klette, Ernst-Volker Wilhelm Staub and Burkhard Garweg, German state broadcaster NDR reported.

Authorities suspect the trio robbed an armored car using automatic rifles and an anti-tank weapon in 1999, stealing more than 1 million Deutschmarks (about 500,000 euros or $545,000).

Local prosecutors said there was no indication the attack had a political motive in the latest attack.

"Rather, it must be assumed that the crime was meant to finance a life underground," prosecutors in the city of Verden said in a statement.

The trio was among several RAF members that disappeared when the group formally disbanded in 1998. DNA traces also linked the trio to a similar attack on an armored van in Duisburg in 1999 and a prison in central Germany in 1993.

Infamous 'German Autumn'

Terror RAF Becker Anklage Dossier Bild 3

West German Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback and his driver Wolfgang Goebel were assassinated by the RAF in 1977.

The Red Army Faction grew out of the radical student movement in the 1960s. Its earliest incarnation was the so-called Baader-Meinhof Gang formed in 1970. Among the group's targets were US troops in Germany, which they terrorized in protest of the Vietnam War. Its leadership was captured in 1972, which spawned a "second generation" of militants.

This second generation unleased a wave of violence in 1977 that became known as the "German Autumn," in which the group murdered, among others, West Germany's chief federal prosecutor and the chief executive of Dresdner Bank.

Many members were caught by police. A "third generation" emerged that targeted top bankers in West Germany and a privatization chief in communist East Germany. Those responsible for murders in the late 1980s and early 1990s remain at large.

Refuge behind the wall

Terroranschlag auf Alfred Herrhausen

The RAF used a car bomb to murder German banker Alfred Herrhausen near Bad Homburg in 1989.

The Stasi - communist East Germany’s secret police - provided 10 RAF members false indentities allowing them to re-settle behind the Iron Curtain. Their true identities were revealed after German reunification in 1990.

In March 1998 the RAF declared its dissolution in a letter, saying: "The city guerilla in the form of the RAF is now history," and commemorating "all those who died all over the world fighting domination."

Prosecutors are expected to make a detailed statement on Wednesday on their investigation into the robberies.

jar/kms (dpa, AP)

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