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Far-left militant arrested in Germany after decades on run

By AFP - Feb 27,2024 - Last updated at Feb 27,2024

An officer of the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) (front) leaves a building, on Tuesday, believed to be the site where a German activist of the notorious far-left Red Army Faction (RAF) wanted for more than 30 years for attempted murder and other crimes has been arrested in Berlin (AFP photo)

BERLIN — Police arrested a fugitive member of Germany’s notorious far-left militant group the Baader-Meinhof gang after more than 30 years on the run for attempted murder and other crimes, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Daniela Klette, 65, was part of a trio from the group, officially known as the Red Army Faction (RAF), which carried out several bombings, kidnappings and killings in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s.

Klette was arrested on Monday in the German capital, a spokesman for prosecutors in Verden said, without giving further details.

Along with fellow RAF members Ernst-Volker Staub and Burhard Garweg, Klette is being investigated by the prosecutors in Verden for attempted murder and various serious robberies between 1999 and 2016.

The trio are believed to have been financing their lives on the run through robberies of money transporters and supermarket cash heists.

They are suspected of being behind the failed robbery of a money transporter in 2016 near the northern city of Bremen, among other offences.

In that incident, masked attackers armed with AK-47 automatic rifles and a grenade-launcher opened fire but fled without cash when security guards locked themselves inside the armoured vehicle, which was carrying about 1 million euros ($1.1 million).


Plane hijacking 


The anti-capitalist RAF emerged out of the radicalised fringe of the 1960s student protest movement.

The group, which had links to Middle Eastern militant organisations, declared itself disbanded in 1998.

At the height of its notoriety in 1977, the group kidnapped one of Germany’s top industrialists after opening fire with a machine-gun on his Mercedes.

After ambushing Hanns-Martin Schleyer’s convoy, they held him hostage for six weeks as the West German state negotiated for his release.

On October 13, four militants of the RAF-allied Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked Mallorca-Frankfurt flight LH 181, demanding the release of 11 RAF members.

During a five-day odyssey which included seven refuelling stops in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the cell’s leader, who called himself Captain Martyr Mahmud, shot dead the pilot, Juergen Schumann.

German anti-terror commandos eventually stormed the Lufthansa jet in Somalia, shot its Palestinian hijackers and freed 90 hostages.

Schleyer, a former SS officer who became the head of Germany’s employers’ association, was then found dead in the boot of a car in eastern France.


‘Third generation’ 


Though the so-called German Autumn of 1977 marked the beginning of a long period of decline for the RAF, the group continued to operate for another two decades.

Staub, Garweg and Klette, alleged members of the RAF’s so-called “third generation” active during the 1980s and 1990s, are the chief suspects in a 1993 explosives attack against a prison under construction in Germany’s Hesse state.

In the attack, five RAF members climbed the prison walls, tied up and abducted the guards in a van, then returned to set off explosions that caused about 600,000 euros worth of property damage, according to German prosecutors.

Klette is also a suspect in two previous RAF operations.

Ten days ago, an alarm was raised in Wuppertal when a man on a regional train was mistaken for Staub.

However, it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, and he and Garweg remain on the run.

Although far-right extremism has been a bigger focus for Germany in recent years, far-left attacks have also continued to keep the authorities busy.

A court in Dresden in May sentenced a left-wing extremist woman to more than five years in jail for attacking neo-Nazis, with Germany’s interior minister warning against “vigilante justice”.

The defendant, identified only as Lina E., and three other suspects were convicted of participating in a “criminal organisation” that carried out several assaults against right-wing extremists between 2018 and 2020.


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