Tuesday, July 29, 2014

German Autumn

Gerhard Richter, October 18, 1977
When it became clear that the government was unwilling to entertain a further prisoner exchange given the experience of the kidnapping of Peter Lorenz two years earlier, the Red Army Faction (RAF) tried to exert additional pressure by hijacking the Lufthansa aeroplane Landshut on October 13 with the help of the allied Palestinian group PFLP. After a long odyssey through the Arabian Peninsula and the execution-type killing of Captain Jürgen Schumann, the hijackers and their hostages landed in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

After political negotiations with the Somali leader Siad Barre, the West German government was granted permission to assault the plane Lufthansa 181. This was carried out on October 18 by the special task force GSG 9, which had been formed after the 1972 Munich Olympics hostage crisis. Only one GSG 9 member and one flight-attendant were injured; of the hijackers only Souhaila Andrawes survived.

On the same night, three of the imprisoned RAF members – Gudrun Ensslin, Jan-Carl Raspe and Andreas Baader – were found dead in their cells.

The official investigation into the deaths of the imprisoned RAF members concluded that they had committed suicide: Baader and Raspe using handguns smuggled into the Stammheim maximum security prison by their lawyer Arndt Müller, Ensslin by hanging herself. Irmgard Möller, who was imprisoned with them, survived with four knife wounds in her chest. She later claimed that the suicides were actually extrajudicial killings. On November 12, Ingrid Schubert was found hanged in her cell.

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