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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Kate Connolly in Berlin

German prosecutors urge Red Army Faction suspects to surrender

Burkhard Garweg (L), Ernst-Volker Wilhelm Staub and Daniela Klette
Burkhard Garweg (L), Ernst-Volker Wilhelm Staub and Daniela Klette are suspected of armed robberies and attempted murder. Photograph: DPA/AFP

Authorities in Germany have called on two suspected leftwing terrorists to turn themselves in and said they were close on their tails.

After the arrest a week ago of Daniela Klette, the last remaining female member of the Red Army Faction at large, officials said the net was closing in on her two alleged accomplices, Burkhard Garweg, 55, and Ernst-Volker Staub, 69.

A spokesperson for state prosecutors in Lower Saxony, who are leading the search for the men, said “pressure is rising” and appealed to the men – in particular Garweg, who they believe they have been close to capturing – to turn himself in “to avoid a possible escalation”.

Klette, Garweg and Staub went into hiding in the early 1990s and have been on Europol’s most wanted persons list since then.

The trio, members of the so-called third generation of the urban guerrilla group that terrorised Germany in the 1970s and 80s, have been wanted for years on suspicion of carrying out armed robberies of security vans and supermarkets to fund their underground existence.

Police gathered DNA traces and fingerprints linked to three suspects at the site of a 2016 armed robbery. The group are also wanted on charges of attempted murder.

Police swooped on Klette last Monday evening, arresting her at her flat in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg where she had apparently been living undisguised for about 20 years. Police said she did not resist arrest.

There have been a series of arrests of people suspected of being Garweg or Staub after tip-offs from the public but all those detained were subsequently released.

As police continued their search for the men on Monday afternoon, a Ford camper van on the A5 motorway near Darmstadt was stopped and later impounded. Police confirmed that the incident was linked to their search for the men, but would not confirm further details.

On Sunday, police appeared to have made a breakthrough after raiding a construction trailer compound in Berlin’s Friedrichshain district, 2km from Klette’s flat. Police said they had considerable certainty that Garweg had lived for an unknown period in one of the containers until fairly recently. The settlement has been occupied for several decades by a politically active squatter scene.

The container thought to have belonged to Garweg was impounded by police and removed from the site by the Federal Agency for Protective Relief (THW) on Sunday and taken for further examination. Later, another address in Friedrichshain was searched. No arrests were made.

Police issued a handout photograph of Garweg sitting in the container caravan eating a bowl of pasta and flanked by two dogs that are thought to be his.

Officers also issued a wanted poster, copies of which have been put up on roadsides in Berlin and other cities, showing a picture of Burkhard wearing a cloth cap and glasses, and stating: “Wanted: Burhard Garweg, attempted murder.” It advises the public to not approach Staub or Garweg as they could be armed.

A kiosk owner close to the trailer park said Garweg had been a regular visitor until two weeks ago, always turning up on his bike. “He always came in with his dog and bought his Berliner Kindl beer and tobacco for his roll-ups; he always paid in cash,” he told the tabloid Bild. “Mostly he favoured the Pepe tobacco brand, for €5.30. I remember him so well because I love dogs and he had a malinois, which is quite a special dog. He was always in a good mood.”

Late on Monday, officers searching for the men stopped and impounded a Ford camper van on the A5 motorway near Darmstadt. Police confirmed that the incident was linked to their search for the men, but would not confirm further details.

Klette used the false identity of Claudia Ivone and had an Italian passport. She was known in her neighbourhood as a dog walker, participated in the African-Brazilian martial arts form capoeira, and gave after-school lessons in maths and German, neighbours said.

Police continued to search her three-room flat at the weekend, having found an anti-tank weapon, pistols, a Kalashnikov and ammunition there last week, leading to the forced evacuation of other flats. At the weekend, investigators were observed removing a bulky cabinet from Klette’s flat and placing it in the back of a police van.

The RAF’s third generation was responsible for the murders of Alfred Herrhausen, who was the chair of Deutsche Bank, and Detlev Karsten Rohwedder, the head of the government agency that oversaw the reprivatisation of East German businesses after the collapse of communism.

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