BONN — Leftist extremist groups have claimed responsibility for bomb attacks in four West German cities late Thursday and early Friday that government officials and political leaders Friday called an escalation of the country's latest wave of terrorism.
No injuries and only moderate property damage were caused by pre-dawn explosions in Hamburg, Essen and Bochum on Friday, but a fourth bomb that rocked a crowded department store in the northern industrial city of Dortmund only hours earlier on Thursday injured nine, including a 2 1/2-year-old child.
In the other three cities, the buildings affected were linked to the coal mining industry. One housed the West German coal miners' union in Bochum, another the Ruhr mining employers' association in Essen, and the third a shipping supply company in Hamburg harbor.
A group called "The Revolutionary Cells,"a leftist extremist group with its roots in the mid-1970s, claimed responsibility for the three explosions. A letter to a West German news agency office, purportedly from the terrorists, said the attacks were in reprisal for West German exports of coal to Britain during the prolonged miners' strike there.
Previous terrorist attacks in West Germany have been directed mainly against military installations, large businesses or prominent individuals with links to both. The choice of a department store indicated that terrorist groups are now prepared to attack the public indiscriminately, federal Interior Ministry officials claimed.
'Escalation of Fear and Terror'
"This shows the terrorists have given up their last ideological justification," said Interior Ministry spokesman Wighard Haerdtl at a news conference here. "Now it is innocent bystanders who are the targets."
Fritz Wittmann, parliamentary spokesman on legal affairs for Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats called the attack "a qualitative escalation of fear and terror" that reaches to the entire population.
An organization calling itself "Action Christian Klar" has claimed responsibility for the department store attack.
Christian Klar is one of several jailed members of the Red Army Faction terrorist organization that has recently renewed attacks after years of inaction. Terrorists from the group are believed to have killed Munich defense industry executive Ernst Zimmermann last Feb. 1.
A succession of terrorist attacks, mainly against defense-related targets, began in West Germany last December as jailed Red Army Faction members went on a hunger strike for changes in prison conditions. Among the targets were a U.S. Army communications tower near Mannheim and a North Atlantic Treaty Organization training school frequented by American soldiers in the Bavarian town of Oberammergau.
Although apparently not closely coordinated, similar bomb attacks against defense installations took place in Belgium and France about the same time.
The Red Army Faction prisoners gave up their hunger strike shortly after Zimmermann was shot, but the group's bombing campaign has continued.