BERLIN — Three former members of the disbanded leftist militant group Red Army Faction have been linked to two botched armored car robberies after spending years in hiding, in what German authorities said Tuesday may have been attempts to continue financing their life underground.
Public broadcaster NDR first reported Monday that DNA matching that of Daniela Klette, Ernst-Volker Wilhelm Staub and Burkhard Garweg was found in a getaway car used in a failed robbery June 6 in Stuhr, near the northern city of Bremen.
During the robbery three masked assailants armed with automatic rifles and an anti-tank weapon blocked an armored car in a supermarket parking lot, then one opened fire on the vehicle but they were unable to get inside.
Prosecutors in nearby Verden confirmed that they believe the trio was involved in the failed heist and are investigating them for attempted murder and attempted serious robbery. Prosecutors said there is no indication the attack had a "terrorist background."
"Rather, it must be assumed that the crime was meant to finance a life underground," Verden prosecutors said in a statement.
The trio is also suspected of attempting a similar robbery on Dec. 28 in the central German city of Wolfsburg. That too failed.
The Red Army Faction was founded in 1970 and is sometimes known as the Baader-Meinhof Group, after two of its most prominent members, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. The group carried out numerous assassinations, kidnappings, bombings and robberies to further its political beliefs — from anti-imperialism to supporting the Palestinian cause — leading the West German government to classify it as a terrorist organization.
Staub, 61, Garweg, 47, and Klette, 57, are considered to be members of the group's "third generation" that was active in the 1980s and 1990s.
Authorities allege that they carried out a 1993 bomb attack on an unfinished prison in Weiterstadt, causing massive damage.
Klette is also alleged to have been involved in a failed bomb attack on a bank and a firearms attack on a U.S. embassy compound in Bonn in 1991.
Prosecutors allege that the three formed a new militant group after the RAF was disbanded in April 1998, and carried out a successful heist on an armored car in 1999. During that robbery, which bore many similarities to last year's botched attempts, they stole more than 1 million Deutschmarks (about $545,000).