BONN — The senior research executive of a West German firm said to be involved in the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative anti-missile space program was killed Wednesday, along with his chauffeur, when a bomb destroyed his limousine in Munich. The radical Red Army Faction claimed responsibility.
Karl Heinz Beckurts, 56, a physicist in charge of research and technology for Siemens, the third-largest company in West Germany, was killed instantly when an explosive charge attached to a tree alongside the road was detonated by remote control.
His specially built BMW was engulfed in flames and thrown across the road by the force of the blast. He was killed instantly, as was his chauffeur, Eckhard Groppler, 42.
A spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe said a note found at the scene claimed responsibility in the name of the "Mara Cagol Commando" of the ultraleftist Red Army Faction. Mara Cagol, the wife of Renato Curcio, who founded the Red Brigades terrorist movement in Italy, was killed during a police raid in Italy in 1975.
According to the spokesman, the note said Beckurts was killed as a representative of "Western Europe's biggest high-tech concern and the world's third-biggest atomic concern."
He said it referred specifically to plans for construction of a nuclear-waste reprocessing plant in Bavaria and to the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the so-called "Star Wars" space-based missile defense program.
The federal spokesman said that Beckurts, who for 10 years before joining Siemens was director of the West German nuclear research center at Juelich, had been involved in research related to the "Star Wars" program. But Siemens spokesman Werner Osel said the company has no formal contracts or proposals for participating in the SDI program.
Siemens, which is based in Munich, is involved in a wide variety of fields, ranging from telecommunications to nuclear power and classified defense projects. Beckurts, who joined Siemens in 1980, was known as a leading advocate of nuclear power.
His car was about 800 yards from his home in Strasslach, a Munich suburb, when the explosion was set off at about 7:30 a.m. A following car, carrying a security detail assigned to Beckurts, was slightly damaged by the blast.
Minibus Seen Leaving
Witnesses said they saw a white Volkswagen minibus leave the area immediately after the explosion.
Wednesday's killings brought to more than 30 the number of deaths attributed to the Red Army Faction since its emergence in the early 1970s. The group, an outgrowth of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, is the organization that claimed responsibility for the slaying of Ernst Zimmermann, an arms industry executive shot at his home near Munich in 1985.
It also was involved in a bombing incident last August at Rhein-Main, the U.S. Air Force base near Frankfurt. On that occasion, two people were killed and several others were wounded when a bomb exploded in a parked car.
The night before the air base bombing, an American soldier was killed for his identification card, which the Red Army Faction later said it had used to get onto the base.
West German authorities have been unable to find those responsible for the bombing or Zimmermann's death.
Other killings attributed to the group, which is now estimated to consist of about 20 hard-core terrorists, include those of Hanns-Martin Schleyer, the head of the West German Employers' Federation, in 1977, as well as other U.S. military personnel, a senior Justice Ministry official and a leading banker.
New Offensive Expected
Police officials warned recently that the Red Army Faction has been preparing a new offensive and that it had drawn up a list of targets. They said Beckurts' name had been found on a list of the group's targets in a raid on a suspected hideout in Frankfurt in 1984.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl condemned Wednesday's killings as "cold-blooded murder." His office issued a statement saying:
"This type of terrorist attack is yet another challenge to our democracy. The government is determined to use constitutional means to combat such murders and men of violence."
The Interior Ministry offered a reward of 100,000 marks ($45,000) for information leading to the arrest of the killers.