German Police Conduct Raid in Hunt for Red Army Fugitives


The German police conducted a raid in Berlin on Sunday in their longtime search for three fugitives connected to the Red Army Faction, originally known as the Baader-Meinhof gang, Germany’s most infamous postwar terrorist group.

The police arrested one of the three last week. That woman, Daniela Klette, had been on the run for decades, and was found in Berlin. The police were seeking two accomplices, Ernst-Volker Staub and Burkhard Garweg.

But Mr. Staub and Mr. Gaweg were not among the 10 people arrested in Sunday’s raid in the trendy Berlin district of Friedrichshain. All were released on Sunday after the police were able to confirm their identities.

The Red Army Faction, was Germany’s most infamous postwar terrorist group. Ms. Klette, who evaded the police for decades, was wanted in connection with the bombing of a prison in 1993.

During their time in hiding, the police say, Ms. Klette, Mr. Staub and Mr. Garweg committed at least 13 violent robberies, netting them about two million euros, or about $2.1 million.

Ms. Klette’s arrest last week made national headlines not only because of the criminal group’s sensational past, but also because that she had been living practically in plain sight. Under the name Claudia Ivone, Ms. Klette lived in an apartment in the popular Berlin district of Kreuzberg. The now 65-year-old fugitive had been active in a group practicing the Brazilian martial art of capoeira and in a local Afro-Brazilian society, even participating in a popular Berlin street festival and being photographed there.

Security experts have raised questions over the effectiveness of the German authorities’ approach to hunting for fugitives, after it emerged that an investigative reporter, assisting a German podcast, was able to easily identify Ms. Klette last year using publicly available facial recognition tools.

In her apartment, Ms. Klette had been hiding a grenade and rocket launcher as well as a machine gun, the police later said.

During Sunday’s arrests, shots were fired by security forces, the police said, but no one was injured.

A day earlier, the authorities had published photographs they believed to be of Mr. Staub and Mr. Garweg that appeared to have been taken in recent years.

According to the German news agency DPA, some 130 police officers and an armored vehicle took part in the operation, the news agency said.

In recent weeks, the prosecutor leading the search had recently begun another public appeal to find the trio, whom the news media has taken to calling the R.A.F. pensioners. A state prosecutor appeared on Germany’s version of “America’s Most Wanted” to remind people of the search and the fact that there was a reward of 150,000 euros.

The Red Army Faction was active from 1970 until the 1990s and included separate cells whose attacks on the state spanned decades, ultimately leading to the deaths of 33 people. Members followed a Marxist-Leninist ideology and targeted American and capitalist interests in West Germany.

Ms. Klette was 18 when several of the group’s original members died in a suicide pact in a high-security prison in 1977. She, Mr. Staub and Mr. Garweg were part of the third generation of the group, which is thought to have included about 25 active members and hundreds of supporters.

The police say it remains unclear whether the trio had been together until Ms. Klette’s arrest. It was more likely that they only came together to commit crimes, a spokesman for the responsible public prosecutor’s office in Lower Saxony said last week.

Ms. Klette is believed to have played a role in the bombing of a newly built section of a prison in Hesse, which did not lead to injuries or death but caused roughly 80 million Deutschmarks, then about $45 million, in damage.

The authorities say they believe that it was just a year later that Ms. Klette, Mr. Staub and Mr. Garweg started robbing supermarkets at gunpoint.

The Red Army Faction disbanded in 1998.

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin.



Erika Solomon – [source]

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