West Germany launches a massive police manhunt today for 16 hard-core terrorists wanted in the wave of murders and kidnapings that culminated in the slaying of industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer.

The search, largest since World War II, even spilled over the border into southern France, where Schleyer's body was discovered in the trunk of a car.

Just hours after the body was found last night, Bonn government spokesman Klaus Boelling went on nationwide television to issue a midnight appeal for public help in tracking down the "cowardly murderers" of Schleyer.

"They will have no rest," Boelling vowed. "We will track them down and give them no chance."

In Mulhouse, France, French authorities said late today that Schleyer had been killed by three shots fired into his head at close range 36 hours before his body was discovered last night.

The timing would place his death shortly after the raid by West German commandos on a hijacked Lufthansa jetliner at Mogadishu, Somalia.

The successful commando raid that freed 86 hostages evidently sealed Schleyer's fate, but it also turned into a double set back for the terrorists when the three surviving leaders of the Bader-Mcinhof gang apparently committed suicide in their jail cells.

The question of how prisoners in a supposedly maximum-security prison could have obtained the guns with which to commit suicide continued to embarrass the German government today.

The state justice minister, Traugott Bender, resigned on the heels of the dismissal of the prison director the day before.

Investigators today also found wires, sockets and batteries concealed behind cells walls that worked through a thermostat as a morse-code communication system linking the three unmates who were supposed to be in solitary confinement.

The new revelations, however, did nothing to diminish the anger of European radicals who continued to claim the three prisoners had been murdered.

Leftist students again rampaged through the streets of Rome tonight, hurling fire-bombs, firing pistol shots and clashing with riot police.

Addressing a jammed session of Parliament today, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt issued a broad appeal for national solidarity in the fight against terrorism.

"Terrorism is not dead, either in West Germany or anywhere else, Schmidt warned. When Schleyer's body was found, it came with a terrorist pledge that "the right has just begun."

Today, the "Red Army Faction of Southern France" pledged that "100,000 attacks are going to be committed against German firms in Europe."

The vital question for police is whether the terrorist groups are provoked enough to seek quick revenge for the setbacks, or whether the public demonstrations and threats are bluster meant to cover their losses while they quietly regroup and assess the wounds.

While the terrorists have thus far eluded police in their recent attacks and have been extremely efficient and deadly, new revenge attacks may be more rash and thus expose them to capture.

Schmidt's nationally televised address to Parliament today was his first since the ordeal of the hijacking and the Schleyer kidnap-murder ended.

It was an emotional week for West Germans. Jubilation over the rescue of the hostages was tempered by sorrow and revulsion over the murder of the pilot in full view of the passengers and over the Schleyer murder.

The rescue operation in which several countries played supporting roles, Schmidt said, "shows how much the awareness has grown that everyone must be prepared to work together" to prevent the use of hostages as political bargaining chips by terrorists.

The chancellor was elaborate in his praise for Somalia, which allowed the Germans to stage the rescue after the hijackers had repeatedly turned down Somali pledges of safe conduct if they would release the passengers and crew.

Schmidt also had high praise for the German opposition parties, whose leaders took part in all major decisions.

The chancellor also defended his decision not to give in to the terrorists' demands on the same grounds that the Constitutional Court here cited this week in turning down an appral by Schleyer's family which would have forced the release of prisoners if necessary to protect the life of a German citizen.

Schmidt argued that the government has a duty to protect the society as a whole as well as individuals, and said that experience shows released terrorists come back to kill again. He noted that the "prisoners whose release was demanded by the terrorists had been charged with 13 murders and 43 attempted murders between them.

His statement was widely viewed as suggesting that Bonn would take a tough stand again in a similar situation.

Though Schmidt still looked tired today, the successful rescue has clearly bolstered his coalition government's recently sinking fortunes.