From Mogadishu to Baader-Meinhoff
The Lufthansa hijacking and Baader-Meinhoff
The next year, on October 13, 1977, two women
and two men took over Lufthansa 737 from Majorca at gunpoint. There
were 86 hostages.
The flight to Germany from the Baleraic Islands (between Spain
and North Africa) had been high-jacked by a man calling himself
'Captain Mahmud', He and his colleagues that West Germany release
convicted terrorists. Mahmud ordered the crew fly to Cyprus,
then Dubai, and then to Men, and finally to Mogadishu in Somalia.
Mahmud was in fact Zohair Youssef Akache, a terrorist who had
conducted previous acts of terrorism.
Mahmud wanted the prisoners freed, or else he would blow up
the plane with himself and his hostages at 2:30 a.m. on October
Why? An incomprehensible mish-mash: to protest the ‘Nazi’ West
German state’s alliance with Zionist Israel.
That night, a plane carrying German commandos landed without
lights. The soldiers were the GSG9
group created six months after
the mis-managed attempt to free Israeli athletes during a terrorist
Munich during the 1972 Olympics.
At ten minutes to two, the Somali army set a fire on the runway.
The terrorists ran to the front of the airplane to see what was
happening. This allowed 28 German commandos to start creeping
toward the plane’s rear. At between five and seven minutes
past two, the commandos staved in the plane’s doors with
explosives. Concussive grenades followed, deafening and blinding
The soldiers entered and shot three of the hijackers. One of
them, a woman, ran into the lavatory, and began shooting blindly
through the door. Trapped, she was wounded by return fire,
but the passengers made it out alive. The pilot had been murdered
The woman said she was a member of the Baader-Meinhoff gang.
Who were Baader-Meinhoff?
Baader-Meinhoff was another name for the West German
Red Army Faction. Theoretically, a radical left organization,
RAF aims were a porridge of contradictions.
Using leftist a wide range of leftist ambitions for reasons,
excuses and goals, the RAF staged bombings and kidnappings
for decades until it finally exhausted itself in 1998, seven
years after the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
It has been described as the long-lasting terrorist gang from
which any of the western democracies has had to suffer. Germany
was a complicated place after the Second World War. Heavy handed
police tactics during student protests of the 1950s encouraged
discontent. This, with the East Germany next door and the Soviet
Union doing its best to butter the stairs.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the remnants of the old colonial
system fell apart. Every year saw another colony declare independence.
Overthrowing a government seemed a only a few steps further.
Several guerrillas groups in Latin America sought to overthrow
their governments; in Europe, the Basque separatists sought outright
independence from Spain, Canada suffered terrorist bombings from
Quebec separatists. Some groups like the Dutch gang which kidnapped
millionaire Maurits Caransa in November 1977, sought only cash;
and the Red Army Faction staged similar operations.
Andreas Baader was the RAF’s first leader. In 1968, after
he and his girlfriend Gudrun Esslin were jailed for arson, he
escaped with the aid of sympathetic journalist Ulrike Meinhoff.
He robed banks for several years and lived well despite being
hunted. Finally Baader was expelled from the RAF proper.
Baader-Meinhof was formed technically in May 1970, but it grew
from the mid-1960's protest movement against the Viet-Nam War,
opposition to German rearmament and the ulcerous presence of
the Berlin Wall. While nominally Marxist, the many groups had
differing opinions about how best to implement socialism. Protests
that started when Vice-President Hubert Humphrey visited grew
after clashes with police and raids on the newly-formed Socialist
Student Union. Student leader Benno Ohnesorg, was killed during
a protest occasioned by a visit by the Iranian Shah and his wife.
The date of Ohnesorg’s death, June 2, provided the name
for one of the RAF/ Baader-Meinhof splinter associations.
The name the Main group chose for themselves was 'The Red Army
Faction', as a tip of the hat to the Japanese 'Red Army' faction.
The RAF/Baader-Meinhof gang invariably announced its shared struggle
with other terrorist groups, no matter how far-flung. For decades
afterward, For years afterward, terrorists who had never met
anyone who had even shared a cab with the original RAF were referred
to as members of the Baader-Meinhof gang in the same way that
any conspiracy today might call itself ‘Al Quaeda’.
Meinhof started as an anti-nuclear war activist but
drifted toward extremist politics. Many of the RAF tracts are
to her. Baader was less articulate. His anarchism is summed up
in this quotation: ‘Do everything, it doesn't matter what,
everything is just shit anyway'.
In 1970 Baader escaped
from prison. He, Meinhof and several
others bolted for Jordan where they attended a PLFP boot camp.
soon returned (August 1970?) to organize a 'People's Army'. For
what ever reason, from politics to teen acting out, they soon
had a small following and began training their urban guerillas.
This, plus logistical supporters for fund raising, identity papers,
safe houses and transportation attracted and required other members.
Estimates of the gang’s size varied from between one and
Baader was finally captured after a 1972 shoot-out. Meinhoff
was also captured in 1972. She hanged herself in jail in 1976.
1977, the RAF/Baader-Meinhof gang kidnapped one
of West Germany’s prominent industrialists, Hanns Martin
Schleyer in an attempt to put pressure on the West German government
to release Baader and Meinhoff. West Germany’s government
sandbagged offices and unspooled barbed wire. Soldiers were issued
weapons and live ammunition and were ordered to searched travelers
at the borders. Police began raiding addresses in an attempt
to run the RAF to ground. Schleyer
died despite the nation-wide
Post-war Germany’s constitutional protections for the rights
of individuals were given lip service, but little else as the
government went on the offensive against the RAF. West Germany’s
stiff arm methods caused a second wave of terrorism by the RAF,
which included the Lufthansa hijacking.
The day after the Mogadishu raid, Baader and two other RAF
members were found dead in their cells by gunshot. Another,
Irmgard Möller, was found with a knife
wound to her chest. The deaths were ruled suicide. Möller
and others claim that Baader and the others were executed by
Whether or not the core founders had any further involvement,
people calling themselves RAF and Baader Meinhoff lingered
on causing no end of deviltry even after the unification of Germany
in 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1992,
RAF announced it would no longer attack civilians. The following
year saw a new prison bombed by the RAF. Despite causing 123
million DM in damage, this was the last major event
undertaken by the group.
Finally, the RAF/Baader Meinhoff gang ceased to be in 1998.
The ending came with a whimper, not a bang, as eight pages
spilled out of a fax machine at a Reuters office: Almost 28 years ago, on May 14, 1970, the RAF arose in a
campaign of liberation. Today we end this project. The urban
in the shape of the RAF is now history.
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