Friedrichshafen (Germany) (AFP) – Forty years ago next month, German anti-terror commandos stormed a Lufthansa jet in Somalia, shot its Palestinian hijackers and freed 90 hostages, a climax in a bloody era of far-left militancy.
The 1977 Mogadishu raid became a symbol of the “German Autumn” when the state was at war with the “urban guerrillas” of the Red Army Faction (RAF), also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang, and their international allies.
On Saturday, the storied old Boeing 737 “Landshut”, having quietly rusted away in Brazil for almost a decade, finally came home, destined to serve as a memorial to that turbulent era.
Broken up into its fuselage and wings, it was flown aboard two giant Russian transport planes from Fortaleza via Cape Verde to the southern German city of Friedrichshafen, where it was greeted by large crowds.
“It’s great that the Landshut is back,” Aribert Martin, a veteran of the GSG 9 special unit that stormed the plane, told public broadcaster SWR. “It would have been strange to let it fade from memory.”
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, whose ministry bought the gutted plane for 20,000 euros ($24,000), has called it “a living symbol of a free society that refuses to give in to fear and terror”.
In the years since that dramatic night when gunshots blasted through its cabin, the aircraft kept flying — first for Lufthansa, then for French, Indonesian and finally a Brazilian airline, which in 2008 retired it on the jungle’s edge.
Now the plane, weathered by tropical sun and rain, will find a new home in Germany’s Dornier aerospace museum near Lake Constance, set to be serve as an exhibition space on Germany’s era of homegrown terrorism.
“It didn’t deserve to die in the jungle,” said former air hostess Gabriele von Lutzau, whose courageous and compassionate role during the ordeal earned her the nickname “the Angel of Mogadishu”.
– Bombings, kidnappings –
The RAF emerged in 1970 out of the radical fringe of the Vietnam war protest movement and took up arms, in solidarity with revolutionaries such as Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Ho Chi Minh, against what it saw as US capitalist imperialism and a German state then still riddled with former Nazis.
After training with leftist Palestinian militants, it launched a spate of shootings, bombings and kidnappings targeting politicians, police, bankers, business leaders and US troops.
By 1977, its hard-core founding members, including Andreas Baader, were long since behind bars, and their comrades sought to…