Baader-Meinhof returns: Ageing gang sought after botched armed robbery near Bremen

It is thought the trio of Ernst Volker Staub, 58, Daniela Klette, 57, and Burkard Garweg are staging robberies to gain an income rather than to fund terrorist attacks

Tony Paterson
Berlin
Tuesday 19 January 2016 21:34 GMT
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Wanted photos (top) and ageing-simulation images of (from left) Burkard Garweg, Ernst Volker Staub and Daniela Klette, the Baader-Meinhof members said to have carried out the robbery
Wanted photos (top) and ageing-simulation images of (from left) Burkard Garweg, Ernst Volker Staub and Daniela Klette, the Baader-Meinhof members said to have carried out the robbery

The militant Baader-Meinhof group which terrorised Germany for two decades has made a dramatic comeback after three of its ageing members were accused of coming out of hiding to rob a security van with Kalashnikov rifles and a grenade launcher in a botched raid.

The raid by members of Baader-Meinhof, also known as the Red Army Faction, failed when the former members failed to get the vehicle’s doors open. German police said DNA and fingerprinting tests had shown that the failed raid, near Bremen last June, was carried out by former members Ernst Volker Staub, 58, Daniela Klette, 57, and Burkard Garweg, whose age is unknown.

All three have been on the run from police and living underground since the early 1990s. There was speculation that the three were running out of money and staging robberies more to gain an income than to fund terrorist attacks. “We are convinced that the attempted robbery was carried out purely to finance their life underground,” a police spokesman said. The RAF said in 1998 that its “urban guerrilla” war was over.

The raid nevertheless bore the hallmarks of RAF terror. Video footage from surveillance cameras at the scene in a supermarket car park, showed the three driving up to the security vehicle in a Volkswagen van and blocking its departure route. Wearing masks, dressed in full combat gear and armed with a grenade launcher and two Kalashnikov assault rifles, the three tried to storm the security van.

At least three shots were fired. One bullet burst one of the van’s tyres, another shattered its windscreen and a third was found embedded in the van’s armour. Two security mean inside the vehicle were unhurt After realising that they had no hope of breaking open the vehicle’s doors and fearing imminent arrest, the three got into their Ford Focus getaway car which was found abandoned in a nearby wood a week later.

The RAF murdered more than 30 people in an anti-capitalist terror campaign waged throughout West Germany in the 1970s and 1980s. The gang’s members were mostly radicalised young members of West Germany’s prosperous post-war middle class. They believed they had a mission to destroy capitalism and fascism, which they claimed was still prevalent in post-Nazi West Germany.

The RAF targeted bankers and German industrial leaders such as Hans Martin Schleyer, who was kidnapped and held hostage for weeks. His body was found dumped in the boot of an Audi car in 1977. Yet at their peak, surveys showed that some 25 per cent of young West Germans sympathised with the RAF.

Hanns Martin Schleyer, a German industrial leader, was held hostage for three weeks and then later found dead in the trunk of a car in 1977 (Getty)
Hanns Martin Schleyer, a German industrial leader, was held hostage for three weeks and then later found dead in the trunk of a car in 1977 (Getty) (Getty Images)

Several of the RAF’s senior figures were tracked down and sentenced to lengthy jail terms. Those who have since been released have been given new names. However, the three who carried out the botched June security van raid were minor RAF figures who were given shorter jail terms. After their release they disappeared underground.

The trio are also thought to have been behind a similar botched raid in Wolfsburg shortly after Christmas last year. Their attempt to stop the van failed.

Their last successful raid was in 1999 when the trio stole the equivalent of €500,000 from a security van loaded with cash in the town of Recklinghausen.

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