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Red Army Faction

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The Red Army Faction (Rote Armee Fraktion or RAF) was a German radical leftist terror organisation active from the 1970s to 1998. The name was inspired by that of The Red Army, a Japanese leftist terrorist group. The word "faction" was thrown in to illustrate the connection leftist organisations felt with a large, international Marxist struggle. The group is mostly known under the name Baader-Meinhof Gang, but this name is misleading, for, although Andreas Baader was one of the leaders of the group, Ulrike Meinhof was not. She was not second-in-command and she was not Baader's lover, as some think. Gudrun Ensslin was the second-in-command (and Baader's lover, by the way), but it is believed she was actually the brains behind the whole group.

Most of the leaders of the Baader-Meinhof Gang were captured as early as 1972, both Baader and Meinhof in June of that year. As they went to trial in 1975-76 their followers would hold hostages a number of times over the next five years in an effort to secure the release of their leaders from jail.

Meinhof committed suicide in prison in May 1976.

In 1977 another kidnapping and airplane hijacking failed to gain the release of the three leaders of the gang. Officially, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Jan-Carl Raspe[?], and Irmgard Möller attempted suicide on October 17, 1977. Baader and Ensslin died in their cells, Raspe died in hospital, and Möller survived and was released from prison in 1994.

There is a conspiracy theory, that the prisoners were murdered. The arguments of the people believing so are that the special prison wing built to house them had been touted as extremely secure and that they hardly could have smuggled in pistols. Möller received four stab wounds, something that seemed impossible for her to do herself. However, independent investigations have contended that the Baader-Meinhof lawyers were able to smuggle in weapons and equipment despite the high security.

After the deaths of their leaders the so-called third, fourth, and fifth generations of the RAF carried on. Another organisation, the Movement 2 June, dissolved in 1980 and its remnants joined forces with the RAF.

In the early 1980s the RAF allied with the French group Action Directe[?]. The collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union was a serious blow to left-wing terrorist groups and by 1990 only the RAF remained. The RAF was financially and logistically supported by the Stasi, the security and intelligence organization of East Germany.

A bomb that destroyed a prison in Weiterstadt[?] in 1993 would prove to be the RAF's last gasp. But it was not until April 1998 that a letter was sent to Reuters stating that the RAF was officially disbanded.

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