Terrorists Claim Responsibility for Bomb Blast
DORTMUND, West Germany (AP) _ Leftist terrorists claimed responsibility Thursday for a bomb blast in a department store that injured eight people, and authorities warned the attack may signal the start of a ″mass terror″ campaign.
The bomb, hidden under a sales counter, went off at 3:32 p.m. on the ground floor of the Hertie department store in the center of this Ruhr district city, police spokesman Karl Beele said.
Seven customers, including a child, and a saleswoman were injured in the explosion. Two of the victims were in serious condition, Beele said. Earlier reports said nine people had been injured.
Police said they were searching for two men who witnesses saw fleeing on foot from the store just before the blast. The men were described as being of medium height and in their mid-20s.
After the blast, police reported an anonymous caller telephoned a Dortmund newspaper and said: ″Here is the ‘Action Christian Klar.’ We have set off a bomb in Hertie. Others will follow.″
Klar, an accused leader of the left-wing terrorist Red Army Faction, is on trial in Stuttgart on murder charges in the 1977 killings of three prominent West Germans and for other alleged acts of terrorism.
″This (Thursday’s blast) is a new dimension and also the final stage of terrorism,″ Interior Ministry spokesman Wighard Haerdtl said.
The bombing showed the terrorists have given up their proclaimed political aims, he said. ″Now they have performed sheer terror directly against the whole population,″ Haerdtl said.
It was the first leftist attack on a West German department store since 1969. Terrorist incidents since then have been directed against government or Western military targets, and prominent members of the ″establishment″ such as industrialists.
West German television quoted another Interior Ministry statement as saying the attack was an ″attempt to direct mass terror against the population.″
″Such random terror can only have the purpose of causing mass anxiety among the population,″ the statement said.
The Red Army Faction, originally known as the Baader-Meinhof gang, has been waging guerrilla war since the late 1960s in an effort to overthrow the West German government and expel the U.S. military from Europe.
Local television showed film of the scene of the blast that indicated the damage was limited to the store’s photography department, near the main entrance, where the bomb exploded.
Customers were evacuated from the store after the blast, and police searched the premises to see if other bombs were in the building.
A spokesman for Hertie’s corporate headquarters in Frankfurt said the Dortmund store was one of its smaller outlets, with 300 to 400 employees.
The Federal Criminal Office in Wiesbaden sent investigators to the scene and authorities warned other department stores in Dortmund to be alert for possible terrorist attacks.
Between mid-December and late January, the Red Army Faction was blamed for more than 30 bomb and arson attacks.Authorities linked the violence to a hunger strike by about 30 imprisoned members of the group.