Car Bomb Injures at Least 31 at British Base URGENT
RHEINDAHLEN, West Germany (AP) _ A car bomb exploded Monday night outside a British military mess hall where officers and their wives were holding a going-away party, and officials said at least 31 people were injured.
One British officer and six German base staffers were hospitalized, but their injuries were not life-threatening, said Army Col. Michel Baugniet, chief spokesman for the British armed forces in West Germany.
He said 21 German officers or their wives and three British base employees also were slightly injured in the blast at 10:30 p.m. the officer’s mess of the Army of the Rhine and Royal Air Force headquarters in Rheindahlen, in northern Germany near the Dutch border.
There was an anonymous phone call warning of the bomb but no immediate claim of responsibility.
″We’re assuming there is a terrorist background to this incident,″ said Burkhard Grassmeier, an investigating prosecutor in the nearby city of Moenchengladbach, whose law enforcement district includes Rheindahlen.
The explosion heavily damaged the mess hall, shattered windows in buildings within several hundred yards and destroyed about 20 nearby parked cars, said Moenchengladbach police spokesman Ulrich Palluck. He said the 220-pound bomb blew a hole in the ground 10 feet wide. Police quickly sealed off the area.
Bomb blasts at other NATO military bases in West Germany in recent years have been claimed by West German leftist terrorist groups, either the notorious Red Army Faction or offshoots.
West German police said 50 people were hurt in the explosion but that most suffered minor injuries. The conflicting figures of British and West German officials could not be immediately resolved.
Officers and their wives were having ″a farewell party″ in the mess building when the bomb went off, Baugniet said.
He said West German and British military police were on the scene investigating the explosion, but declined to give further details.
Peter Kueppers, another Moenchengladbach police official, said public access to the officers’ mess hall had been unrestricted, in contrast to other areas of the Rheindahlen base.
A British military gymnasium and an Anglican church also stand in the base area where the bomb went off.
Moenchengladbach police said investigators believed a second bomb might have been left on the Rheindahlen base and police were combing an area cordoned off in a one-mile radius. But British base spokesmen refused comment on the report.
West German police investigators said an anonymous caller had telephoned a West German news agency office in Duesseldorf, 18 miles east of Rheindahlen, and said in broken English that a bomb would soon explode.
But agency staff could not understand anything else the caller said before the phone was hung up, the police official said.
Taugniet e installation comprises the 2nd Tactical Allied Air Force and the five-nation Northern Army Group.
Britain’s Rhine armed forces comprise about 56,000 troops.
The explosion occurred hours after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited the West German capital of Bonn for talks with Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Mrs. Thatcher had returned to London by the time the explosion occurred.
A car bomb blast at the U.S. Rhein-Main Air Base outside Frankfurt on Aug. 8, 1985 killed two people and injured 20, an attack claimed by the Red Army Faction.
A bomb blast at the U.S. Air Base in Ramstein on Aug. 31, 1981 injured 18 Americans and two Germans in an attack attributed by police to the Red Army Faction.
A U.S. Army officer was killed in a bomb blast at the 5th Corps headquarters in Frankfurt on May 5, 1972, and three U.S. soldiers died three weeks later when a bomb went off at U.S. Army-Europe headquarters in Heidelberg.
Those bombings were claimed by the Baader-Meinhof gang, the predecessor of the Red Army Faction.