Kidnapers seized a prominent Dutch real estate tycoon in Amsterdam early yesterday, and a caller to a Dutch newspaper said he was being held by the radical West German Red Army Faction.
Dutch police are reportedly investigating numerous other calls, including one which demanded the abdication of Queen Juliana and release of a jailed West German anarchist in exchange for the multimillionaire.
Witnesses said four or five men overpowered Maurits Caransa, 61, as he left a downtown nightclub about (1 a.m. (8 p.m. Thursday, EDT) after a bridge game. They forced him into a red car and drove away, leaving a bag containing money and personal papers on the roadway near his parked Rolls Royce, the witnesses said.
A German-speaking man called the newspaper Het Parool about nine hours later and said: "We are the Red Army Faction. We have Caransa. You will hear from us."
Dutch-speaking caller later called De Telegraaf, another newspaper, and said the kidnapers demanded the queen's abdication and the release of Knut Folkerts, 25, an alleged member of the Baader-Meinhof (Red Army) group who was arrested Sept. 22 after a gunbattle in which a Dutch policeman was killed and another wounded.
The kidnapers struck as police throughout Europe hunted 16 Red Army terrorists wanted in West Germany in connection with the April murder of federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback, the July killing of banker Juergen Ponto and the kidnap-slaying of Hanns-artin Schleyer, who was found dead in southern France last week.
Schleyer's body was discovered after West German commandos stormed a hijacked Lufthansa jet in Somalia. The hijackers apparently worked in cooperation with Schleyer's kidnapers and had demanded the release of 11 members of the German Red Army group.
Three of the 11 were found dead in their cells, following the commando raid and authorities have ruled the deaths suicide.
Caransa, who was born in Amsterdam of a poor Jewish family of Portuguese descent, owns a chain of hotels, apartment buildings, stores and other property valued at more than $40 million. He made his fortune selling army surplus equipment after World War II.
Caransa and his wife Rika live in a fashionable villa in the south Amsterdam suburb of Vinkeveen. They have a grown daughter.
By coincidence, Caransa's picture appeared in a mass-circulation daily yesterday after he attended a party to celebrate the Dutch national soccer's team's victory in a recent World Cup qualifying match.
He was recently quoted in a Dutch newspaper interview given while he was visiting Romania. He had seen socialism in Romania, he said, and "if that is what they want back home, let them have it. But then they will have to work and that won't please everybody."
Meanwhile, acts of violence against West German companies continued in several European cities, as radicals continued to protest the deaths of Red Army Faction leaders Andreas Baader, Jan-Carl Raspe and Gudrun Ensslin in their Stuttgart cells.
Two Volkswagen showrooms were bombed in Turin. Italy yesterday, and an Opel showroom was bombed in Rome. In Lisbon, a bomb damaged offices of the West German Siemens electrical engineering company. There were no injuries recorded in any of the bombings.
In Karlsruhe, the West German federal constitutional court ruled yesterday that the government may use any means necessary to free hostages held by terrorists and said "there can be no talk of an exchange of prisoners."
The decision rejected the appeal of Rolf Pohle, 34, a Baader-Meinhof guerrilla who was freed in an earlier terrorist incident, then re-arrested this summer in Greece, Pohle had earlier been convicted of murder and arson.
The West German Parliament also opened debate in Bonn on new anti-terrorist legislation by the liberal coalition government and a package of even stronger measures by the Christian Democrat opposition.
Former Chancellor Willy Brandt, chairman of the ruling Social Democrats, urged Parliament to "act moderately," saying existing anti-terrorists laws needed stricter enforcement. He said terrorists would eventually give up their struggle "because they have the people and particularly the workers against them."
West German authorities, although bolstered by last week's successful raid at Mogadishu, Somalia, are still wary of further terrorist attacks in West Germany itself. Justice Minister Hans-Jochen Vogel told Parliament the deaths of the three jailed anarchists were not "acts of resignation" but a sign that further attacks are looming."
Opposition leader Alfred Dregger said the recent terrorist acts in West Germany have been a defeat for democracy in that country, noting that Schleyer's abductor-murderers were still at large.