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Special Feature: The 1981 Bombing of RFE/RL

By Richard Cummings

Prague, Feb. 22 (NCA) -- Fifteen years ago, February 21, 1981, Swiss terrorist Bruno Breguet detonated a bomb at RFE/RL headquarter's building in Munich, Germany. It was a sophisticated device weighing approximately 20 kilos of plastic explosives affixed to the wall at ground level near the Czechoslovak Service.

The concussion caused extensive damage in the neighborhood. Windows were broken more than one kilometer from RFE/RL headquarters, and the noise of the bomb was heard throughout Munich. Two persons in the neighborhood and four RFE/RL employees were injured, one seriously. Damage to the building exceeded two million dollars. The full story of that bombing has, until now, never been told.

According to top secret documents of the former East German intelligence service known as Stasi, Carlos chose Hungary in 1979 for his base of operations because of "favorable communications, liberal border controls, good relationships with the Foreign Ministry and other government and security organizations."

Stasi used the code name "Separat" for the Carlos Group, which Carlos called "Organization of the Armed Arab Struggle--Arm of the Arab Revolution" (OAAS).

Two days after his thirty-first birthday, Carlos, chaired a planning session to bomb Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich. He and a group of Euro-terrorists (Stasi codename "Separat") met Tuesday October 14, 1980 in Budapest, Hungary at a safe house provided by the Hungarian Intelligence Services.

The Carlos Group discussed existing surveillance reports that detailed how the RFE/RL building appeared Saturday night. Someone had, obviously, observed the Headquarters Building at 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. The surveillance report showed that about forty percent of the rooms had lights on, and the observer estimated that twenty percent of the employees worked at 9 p.m.

When the bomb exploded Saturday night at 9:47 p.m., only 40 employees were in the building, out of a staff of almost 1,000. Their surveillance report, obviously, was wrong. But it shows me that their intent was to bomb the building with a minimum amount of casualties. The German terrorists, from the "Revolutionary Cells," were Magdalena Kopf, known within the Group as "Lilly," and Johannes Weinrich, known as "Steve." Kopf was then Carlos' girlfriend and the group's expert on forging passports.

She and Carlos traveled together to Damascus, Syria in February 1980, and met with top Syrian intelligence officials. They then received Syrian diplomatic passports, weapons and the use of two houses and automobiles. The Syrian government also ordered the Syrian Embassies in East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria to provide assistance to Carlos, upon request.

Weinrich, known as "Steve," was responsible for the estimated forty European members of the Carlos group, took notes of that fateful meeting in Budapest on October 14, 1980. A week after the meeting Weinrich would turn thirty three. Weinrich had already received notoriety in January 1974, when he rented the car in Paris, using the name "Fritz Mueller," that was used in the unsuccessful rocket attack on an El Al airliner at Orly Airport. Weinrich became Carlos' alter-ego and traveled to Cuba in May 1980 to discuss possible Cuban support for terrorist activity in South America.

Carlos was meticulous in preparing his attacks. For example, at the meeting in October 1980 in Budapest, the Carlos group reviewed five black and white and color films, perhaps sixty five photographs, and surveillance and intelligence reports, of the headquarters building and surrounding area. The Carlos Group consisted of terrorists from the Basque separatist group ETA/PM (Political Military), the Swiss terrorist group "Prima Linea, the Red Brigades from Italy, the Palestinian PFLP, former members of the Revolutionary Cells in Germany and others yet identified. English was the common language used by the Group.

From Stasi photocopies of Weinrich's notes of this meeting, it is easy to imagine the following scenario. Carlos termed some their operations "Tango;" this was their "Munich Tango." Their basic equipment needs would be four or five blocks of explosives provided by Romanian Intelligence Service officer named "Andre." They radio transmitters and receivers to detonate the explosives.

They had a training period in Munich starting in November 1980, the month I arrived in Munich. They needed Eight walkie-talkie radios, nine pistols, two with silencers. Also, five hand grenades were to be used if Munich police pursued the group after the bomb attack.

Their possible escape routes after the bombing were then discussed. Finally, Carlos decided that the team would go to Munich in November and wait for the explosives, weapons, and other items necessary to carry out the attack. Further surveillance would be required and "Steve" would conduct practice runs in Munich. I arrived in Munich the middle of November. Carlos went to Bucharest the end of January 1981 and remained there until February 3. Carlos set February 14 as the date for the bombing , that is exactly four months after their Budapest meeting. For some unknown reason, they delayed the bombing until February 21, 1981.

There was no physical security at RFE/RL, when I arrived. Only three 50-watt light bulbs illuminated the building exterior. After my arrival, I asked why and learned that the city regulations prevented exterior lighting from disturbing the neighborhood. There were two external guards: one acted as a parking lot attendant, the other did infrequent patrols around the building. But each patrol took about at least 18 minutes. That was more than enough time for a professional terrorist team to evade observation while laying the bomb.

While "Steve" directed the "Munich Tango," Bruno Breguet, codename "Luca," from the Swiss terrorist organization "Prima Linea," detonated the bomb. Members of the Spanish terrorist group, ETA" participated in the attack, possibly the ones who placed the bomb against the building. After the bombing, one car was abandoned about 200 meters from RFE/RL. Some months later, the police routinely opened the abandoned car, a Ford with French license plates. Police found five hand grenades in the car. "Steve" afterward telephoned Carlos in Budapest and told him about the bombing.

Carlos subsequently flew to Bucharest and was congratulated by the highest members of the Securitate, according to Stasi documents. After some time in Bucharest, Carlos returned to Budapest. He probably was not aware of an attempt by Hungarian authorities in April 1981 to force Carlos out of the country. They asked for a "multilateral consultation" with other Warsaw Pact countries on this issue. In May 1981, a joint intelligence decision was made to "investigate, with Cuban comrades," whether they or not they could convince the Carlos group to move his base of operations there; he refused.

Carlos spent more time in East Berlin, as the guest of East Germany. Interestingly, before Soviet boss Brezhnev's visit to West Germany in November 1981, Stasi officials asked the Group to not only to refrain from any terrorist action, but also to influence all other terrorist groups they had contact with so there would be no terrorist activity that might negatively influence the Brezhnev visit.

This was not the first time that Carlos had acted in this way: in February 1981, Stasi learned that neither the Carlos Group or other terrorist groups in Europe planned terrorist activity during the Twenty Sixth Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Further,Stasi officials asked Carlos to use his influence with the leadership of the Armenian Liberation Front to tone down it's anti-Soviet activity; he told the officials he did so.

To illustrate further Carlos' close cooperation with the Warsaw Pact countries, shortly before the bomb attack, German border police arrested Georgio Bellini, from Switzerland terrorist circles, code name "Roberto," on a train going from Germany to Switzerland. He was sent to Munich where he was jailed. He was still in jail in April when a high level intelligence officer meeting was held in East Berlin. A Top Secret Stasi report, dated April 28, 1981, detailing a meeting of both Hungarian and East German Intelligence Services said this about Bellini:

". . . He had been informed about the preparation and execution of the attack against Radio Free Europe." Should he reveal what he knows, great dangers -- for the socialist states as well -- would follow.

After the bombing of RFE/RL, Weinrich telephoned Carlos and Magdalena Kopp to tell him about the successful operaiton. Carlos then went to Bucharest, where according to Stasi documents, the highest members of the Romanian Intelligence Service congratulated him.

Hungarian Intelligence agents later found Weinrich's notes in one apartment used by the Carlos Group and sent a full report and copies of the notes to the Stasi in April 1981. After some time in Bucharest, Carlos returned to Budapest. Carlos was not then aware of an attempt by Hungarian authorities to force him out of the country. The Hungarian Intelligence Service asked for a "multilateral consultation" with other Warsaw Pact countries on this issue. In May 1981, a joint intelligence decision was made to "investigate, with our Cuban comrades," whether they or not they could convince the Carlos group to move his base of operations to Cuba; he refused to leave Europe.

One participant of this high-level meeting was General Major Helmut Voigt, Chief of Department XXII/8 of the Stasi -- the Department responsible for "terrorism" in the former East Germany. Voigt plays a leading role in the activities of the Carlos Group in the early 1980s. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, Voigt went underground and then fled to Greece.

Due to excellent intelligence work by Germany, Greek police arrested him in 1992. Voigt was extradited to Germany in 1993 and put on trial in 1994 for his support of the Carlos Group.

Carlos was called to the Hungarian Ministry of Interior where he would be confronted with disclosure of the violations of Hungarian law, he and his Group committed. Carlos would be warned that Western "secret services" and Interpol were actively seeking him and his Group.

For these reasons, he and his Group had to leave East Europe within two to four months, but first he would be allowed to reexport his weapons, explosives, and other materials. Carlos' permit for his residence in Hungary would be withdrawn, but they would be allowed to transit Hungary and stay for short periods of time in Budapest.

The Czechoslovak Intelligence Service and the Soviet KGB agreed with the Hungarians, and Bulgarian Intelligence Service approval was forthcoming. The Cuban security organ representative in Budapest also were to be informed about the planned measures.

The Stasi files show the various intelligence services decided to act cautiously, because of a fear that Carlos and his Group would seek revenge or move over to "the enemy camp." Carlos left Europe and moved his based of operations to Damascus, Syria.

Just about a year after the bombing of RFE/RL, February 16, 1982, Magdalena Kopf ("Lilly") and Bruno Breguet ("Luca") were arrested in Paris, presumably on their way to another "Tango." In the trunk of the car in which they were arrested, police found five kilograms of explosives and a map of Paris. Carlos threatened the French with retaliation, if the two were not released within 30 days. To show he was not fooling, Carlos carried out his threat with a bomb attack on the Paris-Toulon Express train; five persons died. The day the trial began, a car bomb killed one and seriously wounded sixty three persons. The French were not intimidated and sentenced Kopf to four years imprisonment, Breguet to five.

In the Stasi documents, the myth of Carlos starts to fade, as does the idea that his group had full financial support from Syria: In June 1982, he wrote to Weinrich:

"...Ali takes $15,000, there are only $15,000 left..., and I have just over $9,000 left. Therefore: 1) be very modest in your expenses. 2) Avoid unnecessary traveling..."

Financial problems continued to haunt Carlos in 1983, as he again wrote to Weinrich:

"I will use the French intervention in Chad as a pretext to restart cooperation. I have not waitied any longer because all my money is finished with Feisals's trip (he takes $2000 for you and $500 reserve). There is left only the $15,000 reserve....We need to meet to talk about many things, take this into account when you make your plans. Also cut down unnecessary movements."

After the bombing of the French Cultural Center in Berlin, Weinrich went to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where he wrote a long letter to Carlos. He obviously understood the necessity of keeping the Carlos myth alive as he wrote:

"... has asked me if it is true what he heard that recently you and me (sic) had a kind of disagreement and split the organization. I only laughed as an answer...denying it by saying: it is good for us that the rumors about are growing unlimited.

"Obviously there are rumors on this kind going around. Think about it, if we can play with it, for example, on behalf of our position regarding socialist countries... to confuse them... we will talk about it....

"They do think you are in Bucharest. This I learned from their questions about you. My reply was, we are everywhere and nowhere in the same time, one can find us only in the under-ground...."

Carlos and his group continued their terrorist activity against French interests; in December 1983, a suitcase bomb exploded at the Marseilles railroad station, killing two and wounding 45. That same month, a bomb exploded aboard the French "bullet train" that killed three and injured four. The next month, a bomb blast at the French Cultural Center in Tripoli, Lebanon killed one person.

For this activity, Carlos was apparently well paid. In June 1986, he was interviewed in a hotel by Czechoslovak intelligence officers in Prague. The Czechoslovak regime wanted Carlos to leave the country. According to one officer, "Carlos came back with a case from the safe. He opened it and without a problem started counting the money in it. For the first time in my life I saw what a million dollars looked like in one hundred dollar bills."

Magdalena Kopf was then pregnant. The same Czechoslovak officer said, "We think that his main reason was that he wanted some peace. A certain agreement, a status quo, existed between people of his kind and our (Party) leadership if they didn't cause trouble and were spending hard currency, they were free to rest here for a while. I think "Carlos" was trying to find a quiet spot where his girlfriend could later give birth." Carlos left Czechoslovakia, returned to Damascus, Syria, and their child was born there. At the time of Carlos arrest in the Sudan in August 1994, Kopp and their daughter were living in Venzuela with Carlos family.

The myth of Carlos was still alive just before the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991. The ABC television program "Prime Time" started off with the question: "Is Saddam Hussein harboring one of the world's most brutal terrorists?" The theme revolved around the probability that Carlos was in Iraq and was planning to attack US targets. The program, perhaps unwittingly, added to the Carlos myth:

"We are talking about a lethal human weapon, a terrorist, but not just any terrorist, the most notorious and elusive of them all. . . . His exploits have made him famous, the diabolical villain of books and movies."

Commenting on Carlos' presence in Sudan, French Security sources told Compass that Carlos left Syria in 1990 after bowing to international pressures to stop supporting international terrorism.

Afterwards, Carlos had problems settling in one place. He tried to stay in Libya, but was told to leave because of intense international pressures on the Libyan government as a result of investigation into the Lockerbie airline bombing.

The Government of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, suffering from international sanctions, refused to provide haven to the former champion of the Palestinian cause.

Carlos secured refuge in southern Yemen with his wife, Magdalena Kopp and his child. But when civil tension erupted in Yemen in 1993 and he learned that Palestinian factions protecting him may be transferred to Gaza and Jericho to take part in the Palestinian autonomy, he decided to seek another shelter. Reportedly, Carlos dealt with Sudanese authorities with arrogance. Also, he never asked the Iranian government for refuge because of his Marxist ideology and his resentment of religious movements.

In August 1994, Carlos was arrested in circumstances that are still not clear. He was flown to Paris and placed in a maximum-security prison. This year, Carlos will face trial in Paris for his terrorist attacks against French targets. It is safe to say that he will never face trial in Munich for the bomb attack against RFE/RL.

Weinrich, on the other hand, was arrested in Yemen in 1995 and extradited to Germany. He is now in custody in Berlin to face charges not only in the attack on the Maison de France, but also for the attack on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Over the Christmas holidays 1995, Magdalena Kopp voluntarily returned to Germany. According to media speculation, she, too, could be tried for her participation in the bombing of RFE/RL.