Major West German terrorist operation stalled, but

Evidence building up since the fatal auto accident of two West German terrorist suspects July 25 strengthens earlier police fears of a major terrorist assassination or kidnapping attempt this year.

The death of Juliane Plambeck, a leader of the Second of June movement, and of Wolfgang Beer, an alleged long-time supporter of the terrorist "Commandos" recently turned Commando himself, seems to have delayed the planned operation. It has also alerted police to search for eight more "most wanted" terrorist suspects. As nearly as the police can tell, the accident has not stopped preparations for a terrorist action in the near future, however.

A number of clues that have just been made public lead to this conclusion: three firearms, including the modified Polish machine pistol used to kill bodyguards in the 1977 kidnapping of industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer, were discovered in the Plambeck-Beer car. French auto license plates were also discovered that led to the tracing of four stolen autos and an apparent total fleet of eight or nine attack and getaway cars planned for use in an operation. (This indicated a planned action almost on the scale of the 12-car Schleyer abduction.)

These details were revealed Aug. 3, by Horst Herold, president of the Federal Criminal Office in his first press interview in three years. They combine with recent terrorist writings and with the arrest of five West German women terrorist suspects and accompanying evidence in a Paris apartment last May to suggest that West German terrorists have been meeting in France to coordinate a large-scale operation in West Germany. The discovery of Plambeck and Beer, and the trails of other terrorist suspects in West Germany suggest further that the conspirators were almost ready to carry out the operation. Normally the core underground activists stay outside West Germany except for scouting or actually mounting an attack.

A letter sent to the West German press agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) by the Red Army Faction (originally the Baader-Meinhof Gang) on July 26, talked of a current "offensive 77." This was apparently in reference to the murders of Schleyer, federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback, and banker Jurgen Ponto in 1977. The RAF and Plambeck's Second of June movement merged some months ago.

Flyers recently distributed by the RAF in Hamburg schools and the Hamburg flea market indicate that the RAF is again trying to rally leftists to its cause of "anti-imperialist" armed revolution. The flyers call for a common struggle against the West German Army, NATO, and West Germany (representing the US).

Conspicuously absent this time around is any controversy about the circumstances of the death of Plambeck and Beer. The last time a terrorist suspect was killed in a shoot-out arrest critics charged the police with using excessive violence. And in 1977 when Andreas Baader and two other convicted terrorists committed suicide in jail some leftists accused West German officials of having secretly killed these terrorists.

This time no similar accusations have been made. Plambeck and Beer were rounding a curve at too high a speed and collided with a truck after swerving into the oncoming lane, so there can be no question even of a staged accident.

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