German RAF fugitives suspected in more heists

7th June 2016, Comments 0 comments

Three German far-left militants at large for decades and blamed for robbing money transporters are also suspects in at least six supermarket heists, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Police had earlier linked the fugitives of the Red Army Faction -- which sowed terror in Germany in the 1970s and 80s with bombings, kidnappings and killings -- to several attacks against money vans using grenade launchers.

Authorities now believe that the list of crimes carried out by the three suspects -- Ernst-Volker Staub, 61, Burhard Garweg, 47 and Daniela Klette, 57 -- is far longer than earlier thought.

"The investigations... show that the suspects in the money transporter attacks... could also have carried out the attacks at supermarket cash offices," said the prosecutors in the northern state of Lower Saxony.

"The culprits are believed to be short of money, hence further attacks cannot be ruled out," they warned.

Between 46,000 and 100,000 euros ($52,200-$113,500) were stolen in each hold-up, except for the most recent on May 7, when the robbers escaped with a guard's firearm but no cash.

Authorities said they had drawn the link between the six robberies across Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein states after finding a similar modus operandi in all of the cases.

The fugitives are believed to be holed up in either Germany or neighbouring countries, as in one case, a telephone call made to a car-seller was traced to the Netherlands.

- 'Calm, polite, sober' -

In each heist, one suspect would head to a garage to purchase a cheap used car for under 3,000 euros, but would sit in the passenger seat during the test drive.

The car is always paid for in cash, but picked up at a later time outside business hours.

"In the attacks, they use pistols and sometimes electric stun guns to theaten supermarket staff or cash carriers either as they enter or leave the cash offices," said prosecutors.

"The behaviour of the culprits is calm, polite and sober," the prosecutors said, adding that the suspects sometimes also stress that they "are only after the money".

After leaving the crime scene, the suspects then hide the getaway vehicle, usually in forest areas, before fleeing with another car.

"They try to remove any trail by setting the getaway vehicles on fire, but did not always manage to do so," said prosecutors.

- Anti-capitalist terror -

The three are among a wider group of fugitives still on the run for membership of the anti-capitalist RAF, also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang, which 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.

Staub, Garweg and Klette, alleged members of the RAF's so-called "third generation", have long been wanted as chief suspects in a 1993 explosives attack against a prison under construction in 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, said prosecutors.

Klette is also a suspect in two previous RAF operations, prosecutors said -- a 1990 failed car bomb attack against a Deutsche Bank building near Frankfurt, and a 1991 attack in which a gunman fired at least 250 shots at the former US embassy in Bonn, without causing any casualties.

© 2016 AFP

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