Red Army Faction ex-militanst
From left: Burkhard Garweg, Daniela Klette and Ernst-Volker Staub, ex-militants of the far-left Red Army FactionBKA

A recent attempted armed robbery in Germany involving a rocket launcher was the work of three wanted militants who are members of the far-left Red Army Faction (RAF), police have said. The RAF, formerly known as the Baader-Meinhof Group, was a West German communist terrorist cell responsible for more than 30 deaths. The organisation carried out a series of bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and bank robberies over the course of three decades, which reached a peak in 1977.

The group disbanded in 1998 following the end of the Cold War, and some of its members went into hiding. However, 18 years later the DNA of three ex-RAF militants has been discovered by detectives investigating the botched robbery of an armoured security van near Bremen last year (June 2015). Ernst-Volker Staub, 58, Daniela Klette, 57, and Burkhard Garweg, age unknown, have all now been listed as suspects in the robbery, according to German broadcaster NDR.

The attempted robbery saw the path of a security van blocked by a VW van with three masked individuals carrying Kalashnikov rifles and a rocket launcher get out of the vehicle. They proceeded to threaten the personnel in the security van and fired shots at the vehicle's tyres and windows.

Video footage saw the armed group struggle to open the doors of the van, however, and the raid ended with them fleeing empty-handed. The two occupants of the targeted van were reportedly unharmed. The getaway vehicle was found abandoned a week later in a wooded area in Gross Ippener, nine minutes' drive from the where incident took place.

The German criminal police, or BKA, has publicised wanted notices for the three ex-militants, offering rewards for information that leads to their capture. It has warned that the trio may be armed.

The authorities do not believe there were any terrorist motives behind the attempted robbery, according to NDR. The DNA of Klette and Staub had also reportedly been found after a similar armed robbery in Duisburg, western Germany, in 1999.