SALZBURG, AUSTRIA, JULY 27 -- One week after the West German government warned that the country's Red Army Faction guerrilla group would soon try to retaliate against the recent arrest of several of its members, the terrorists struck again.
This time, the group bombed the car of West Germany's top anti-terrorism expert, state secretary Hans Neusel, as he drove to work today at the Interior Ministry in Bonn. The bomb destroyed the interior of Neusel's unarmored blue BMW, but Neusel suffered only a few cuts on his arm and face.
Less than four hours after the attack, Neusel, 62, appeared at a regularly scheduled government press conference. He was obviously upset and gritted his teeth, but regained his humor quickly.
"I'm sure you can imagine that I am especially happy that I could be with you today," Neusel said. Even if the terrorists had succeeded, he said, "someone else would take my place." He appealed to the Red Army Faction to quit its murderous ways at a time when Europe is becoming more democratic and peaceful.
The bomb intended to kill Neusel was triggered when his car broke a light beam set up across a busy highway exit ramp -- the same method the Red Army Faction used last November when it claimed responsibility for killing Alfred Herrhausen, the chairman of Deutsche Bank, West Germany's largest.
Last week, Neusel's boss, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, released his annual report on terrorism, warning that despite the recent arrest of several Red Army Faction members who had been given refuge by East Germany's former Communist government, the guerrilla group was still alive and could be expected to respond to the arrests.
The Red Army Faction, an extreme left-wing group once known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang that has bombed and killed West German political and business leaders since the mid-1970s, left a note near the site of today's attack. The note included the organization's symbol, a star, and was signed by the Jose Manuel Sevillano Commando. Sevillano was a Spanish leftist terrorist who recently died in jail after a hunger strike.
Neusel was saved by two strokes of luck: Much of the bomb's impact was apparently absorbed by a guardrail between the explosives and the road, and the bomb was aimed at the passenger seat of Neusel's car, which is where he normally sits. But today, Neusel's chauffeur was on vacation and Neusel decided to drive himself to work.
Although Neusel recently gave up his bodyguard, he told reporters he still varies his departure time and route to work. "I knew I was a possible target, but after thousands of others," he said.
After the bombing, Neusel got out of his car, moved it off the ramp with the help of other motorists, and walked to work.