Monday April 20 5:05 PM EDT Baader-Meinhof Gang Says it is Disbanding By Robert Mahoney BONN (Reuters) - The guerrilla band that rocked the German establishment with bombings and assassinations in the 1970s and 1980s said Monday it had abandoned its struggle and disbanded. The Red Army Faction (RAF), known widely outside Germany as the Baader-Meinhof group, said in a statement sent to Reuters it was "now history." German security sources said the eight-page, closely typed statement was genuine. The RAF, which emerged from a group founded by Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, said it had failed to move on from its origins in the 1960s protest and anti-Vietnam war movement. Bombings, kidnappings and assassinations of prominent Germans and U.S. military personnel claimed over 50 lives and forced Germany to turn its institutions into virtual fortresses. The guerrillas saw themselves as exposing a fascist state in its true colors. Cities were plastered with "wanted" posters showing the faces of young men and women, many from privileged backgrounds. Bitter public disputes raged between public figures, politicians and artists, about the motives of the guerrillas and how to deal with them. "The RAF emerged from a liberation action nearly 28 years ago on May 14, 1970," the RAF statement said. "Today we are ending this project. The urban guerrilla group in the form of the RAF is now history," Interior Minister Manfred Kanther said the statement was being investigated. He said even if it was genuine the authorities would wait to see whether the organization would actually disband. "We are stuck in a dead end," the RAF said. The left-wing group acknowledged that guerrilla attacks were not the way to bring about the social revolution and justice that it said were still legitimate goals. "It was a strategic error not to build up a social-political organization next to the illegal, armed one," it said. The RAF captured world headlines in 1977 by kidnapping and killing industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer, with the aim of securing the release of Baader and three other guerrillas in Stammheim prison high security block in Stuttgart. Schleyer was shot in the head after a 45-day ordeal when a spectacular plane hijacking by four Palestinian guerrillas backing the kidnappers' demands was brought to an abrupt end by German commandos at Mogadishu airport in Somalia. On the same day, three of the Stammheim guerrillas, including Baader, were found dead in their cells in what authorities called a "suicide pact," the details of which have never entirely been explained. German authorities said last year they believed the RAF, most of whose members are either dead, in jail or have slipped into "ordinary" lives, was a spent force. Germany insists however that the tough anti-terrorism laws passed in the 1970s and 1980s to combat the guerrillas are still needed today to fight a sharp rise in organized crime. The last killing attributed to the RAF was the 1991 murder of Detlef Rohwedder, head of the Treuhand agency which was privatizing East Germany's state industry. German reunification in 1990 dealt a body blow to the movement when 10 RAF members believed to have been hiding in the Middle East were discovered living under false names and identities in the former communist East Germany. Four East German security officers were convicted of helping them in trial last year aimed at establishing the extent to which East Berlin supported international terrorism and punishing those behind the "unholy alliance" of the RAF and the Ministry for State Security (Stasi). Over the last few years messages from the RAF group have become rare, and its nine members left in jail all now reject political violence.
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