After the arrest of Daniela Klette Why light could be shed on the RAF attacks in Bonn now

Analyse | Bonn · The shots fired at the US embassy in February 1991 were the last of several RAF attacks in Bonn. Daniela Klette, who has now been arrested, is considered an accomplice. Her arrest could shed light on the other unsolved offences in Bonn.

 The former US embassy in Deichmanns Aue, as seen from Königswinter by the RAF terrorists on 13 February 1991 - except that they only struck in the dark.

The former US embassy in Deichmanns Aue, as seen from Königswinter by the RAF terrorists on 13 February 1991 - except that they only struck in the dark.

Foto: Benjamin Westhoff

Terrorists can be pragmatic people. Sometimes this means that consumables such as cat litter have to be secured at the scene of a crime. After 13 February 1991, investigators from the Bonn police and the Federal Criminal Police Office were confronted with a whole bag of it on the Rhine promenade near the Hotel Loreley in Königswinter. Apparently, the Red Army Faction (RAF) had used this as a base for the weapons with which they put a spectacular plan into action that evening: firing on the US embassy across the Rhine. The arrest of RAF terrorist Daniela Klette on Tuesday has once again brought the attack in the former German capital to the attention of law enforcement authorities. Shortly after the attack, investigators suspected that the then 32-year-old might have been involved in the attack.

"Soko Mehlem" counts 250 shell casings

It was a dark blue VW Passat with Bottrop number plates, found 14 days later in a wooded area near the A45 motorway near Herborn, that put the investigators on Klette's trail. In the car, which had already been described by witnesses in Königswinter, DNA belonging to a certain Daniela Klette was found alongside the aforementioned cat litter as a suspected weapon base. There was no doubt about the RAF's authorship of the attack from the outset due to a letter of confession. It had been found near Generalkonsul-von-Weiß-Straße 8 on the corner of Rheinallee. The perpetrators had opened fire from a parapet while an accomplice was waiting in the Passat.

The immediately assembled "Soko Mehlem" had their hands full in Königswinter and across the street on Deichmanns Aue in Rüngsdorf, where the US embassy in Germany was located until it moved to Berlin. It was later reported that the forensics team had collected 250 shell casings. No wonder, as it turned out that three different rifles had been used, including a Kalashnikov and two NATO rifles with a calibre of 7.62 x 51. Tracer ammunition is also said to have been fired across the river, although fortunately the effect on the other bank was limited. Miraculously, it has to be said, because bullet holes were later found in facades of Godesberg residential buildings several kilometres away. The damage to the embassy building was also relatively minor: Window panes were broken and the Bonn House of History was later delighted to receive a monitor that had been hit by a bullet. The participants in a vigil that had been taking place not far from the embassy for some time in protest against the US Gulf War, which had just begun, also escaped unscathed.

"They wanted to show: We are still here!"

Journalist Georg Bönisch, who had been intensively involved with the RAF since the 1970s, followed the events closely. Even back then, he thought that the random bombardment across the Rhine was atypical of the left-wing terrorists. "Such a military spectacle was completely out of line by RAF standards," says Bönisch. He assumes that the RAF wanted to make a statement in the middle of the process of German reunification, which they hated, and in view of the Gulf War. "They were in agony and wanted to show: We are still here and you will still hear from us," says Bönisch.

And so it came to pass, because the next victim had long since been spied out: six weeks after the Königswinter shooting, Treuhand boss Detlev Karsten Rohwedder was murdered in Düsseldorf. One of the weapons that had previously been used in Königswinter was used. The same weapon had also been used several times in the murders of employer president Hanns-Martin Schleyer and diplomat Gerold von Braunmühl.

Connection with the operation in Bad Kleinen

Two years after the attack on the US embassy, Daniela Klette's name came up again in a different context, when her fingerprints were found on a letter that the terrorist Birgit Hogefeld had with her after the failed GSG-9 operation in Bad Kleinen. The authorities are divided over the role of the now 65-year-old Klette within the terrorist organisation and her membership of the RAF commando level in the 1980s and 1990s. "In the entire third RAF generation, she was rather one of the unknowns," says Bönisch.

She found access to the terrorists via the "Rote Hilfe" organisation. He sees his theory that she was a marginalised figure confirmed by the fact that she did not appear on the wanted posters after the "Offensive '86". Ten years after the shots were fired at the Bonn embassy, new technical possibilities made it possible to match Klette with a hair that had been recovered from the getaway car in Herborn. A side note: the RAF had made a gross mistake by naming the salvo across the Rhine "Kommando Vincenzo Spano". Contrary to what was assumed, the "martyr" used as a patron saint was by no means dead, but was enjoying excellent health in a prison. Days later, the RAF meekly admitted that they had made a mistake with the name. "They actually meant Ciro Rizatto, who was shot dead during a bank robbery in France," explains Bönisch. And so the crime in Bonn led to the only factual error in a letter of confession from the RAF.

The RAF struck four times in Bonn, one person had to die

The terrorist organisation struck a total of four times in Bonn, murdering the diplomat Gerold von Braunmühl in front of his house in Ippendorf on 10 October 1986. The perpetrators of the RAF attacks in Bonn were never convicted. Bönisch is certain that tens of weapons, including the murder weapon in the Schleyer and von Braunmühl cases, are still lying in one of the hundreds of underground depots that the RAF and its supporters have built up over the years - including in the Rhineland.

When Klette was arrested, the police found a magazine and ammunition. Together with accomplices Ernst Volker Staub and Burkhard Garweg, she is said to have kept her head above water for years by committing robberies. There are many indications that the story is not yet finished.

Original text: Rüdiger Franz

Translation: Mareike Graepel

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