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
". . . 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
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
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
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
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.