Germany′s RAF Prison Bombers Identified 14 Years Later | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 25.10.2007
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Germany's RAF Prison Bombers Identified 14 Years Later

The last violent action of the left-wing terrorist group, the Red Army Faction (RAF), was a prison bombing. New information reveals three of the perpetrators have been identified, but their whereabouts are still unknown.

Photo showing the damaged Weiterstadt prison

The Weiterstadt bombing severely damaged the prison

In 1993, the RAF, which is also known as the Baader-Meinhof Group after two of its founders, planted a bomb in the newly built prison of Weiterstadt in the state of Hesse. After climbing over a six-meter (20-foot) wall on a rope ladder and subduing guards with machine guns, the perpetrators laid some 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of explosives, causing 65 million euros ($93 million) worth of damages.

The Weiterstadt bombing was the RAF's last act before they officially disbanded in 1998.

Photo showing bombed car on the autobahn

The RAF was responsible for car bombings, shootings and hijakings

According to the weekly Stern magazine, DNA samples identified at least two suspects involved in the bombing, but this information was withheld by prosecutors and has only now come to light.

Germany's federal prosecutor's office confirmed on Tuesday Stern's report that the two are Daniela Klette and Ernst-Volker Staub, who have been on the run from authorities since the late 1980s.

Whereabouts unknown

In 1999, more than a year after the RAF had broken up, the two were involved in a spectacular robbery of am armored car, netting more than one million German marks (510,000 euros). They left masks at the scene of the crime, enabling police to identify them from DNA traces taken from traces of saliva, but have not been sighted since.

In addition, police are seeking a third Weiterstadt bombing suspect -- Burkhard Garweg. Prosecutors refused to comment on how Garweg was identified.

Staub, Klette and Garweg belong to the so-called third generation RAF, which committed 20 violent crimes and assassinations between 1984 and 1993, resulting in 10 deaths and 29 people being seriously injured.

Commemoration service

On Tuesday, the relatives of Germans slain by RAF held a commemoration service on the 30th anniversary of the murder of prominent industrial leader, Hanns Martin Schleyer.

Guests at the commemoration service sit in front of photos of RAF victims

Portraits of RAF bombers hang on the walls at the commemeration service

Speaking at the commemoration held at Germany's Historical Museum in Berlin, Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said the event was the first to remember all the victims of the terrorist group killed by the RAF.

In reference to the widespread public support the terrorists had at times enjoyed, Zypries said the victims had often been seen by Germans "through the eyes of their killers." A 1971 poll showed that one in four West Germans under the age of 30 had some sympathy for the group, but approval dwindled as violence escalated.

Only recently had the focus fallen on the victims themselves "as spouse, father, son and as friend," Zypries said. The justice minister also criticized as "scandalous and unacceptable" former terrorists who had attempted to justify their acts.

The RAF targeted and killed bankers, business titans, jurists, bureaucrats and policemen in a campaign of "armed struggle" aimed at revealing a fascist core beneath West Germany's democratic institutions.

The names of 37 victims were read out by school pupils at the commemoration in the German Historical Museum. Some 70 relatives were among the 300 invited guests.

Crime to defend abduction

On Saturday, German prosecutors announced they were investigating former RAF member Rolf Wagner for defending the September 1977 abduction of Schleyer, who was then head of West Germany's powerful employers' organization.

A black and white photo shows Schleyer holding a sign reading: Prisoner for 31 days

Hanns Martin Schleyer holds a sign reading: "Prisoner for 31 days"

During Schleyer's kidnapping, three of the businessman's police bodyguards were killed, as was as his driver. After 43 days in captivity, Schleyer was murdered following the German government's refusal to give in to RAF demands for the release of 11 of Baader-Meinhof Gang's members.

"From today's perspective," the kidnapping was justified, Wagner had told the newspaper Junge Welt. Others have justified Schleyer's abduction and murder of on the grounds of his membership of the Nazi party and SS during World War II.

A spokeswoman for the Berlin prosecutor's office said it was looking into whether Wagner's remarks constituted the offence of "endorsing criminal actions."

Wagner, who spent 24 years in prison for his role in the Schleyer kidnapping, was released in 2003 after a presidential pardon.

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