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Bombing of US base: is German missile protest turning violent?

West German officials regard terrorists as suspects in the bomb explosion outside the US Air Force European Headquarters in Ramstein, West Germany, Aug. 31.

But the incident, which injured 20 military and civilian personnel, rouses fears of possible future violence in confrontations near US missile sites in connection with protests against new NATO nuclear weapons in Europe.

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The presumption of terrorist involvement has led the West German federal prosecutor and the Federal Criminal Office to undertake investigation of the crime. But so far as is known no evidence has yet come to light to connect terrorists definitely with the explosion.

In the mid-1970s violence of the leftist anarchist Baader-Meinhof gang, one of the first killings resulted from bomb explosions at US Army Headquaters in Heidelberg in 1972. That series of murders and hostage takings ended with many of the gang leaders in jail or dead; the last spectacular action was the kidnapping and murder of industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer in 1977. Despite the absence of major incidents in the past four years the terrorist hard core is still strong, according to West German security officials.

Initially, the Baader-Meinhof violence against "things" (and not persons) was widely approved among leftist youths rebelling against West German society. Young people's sympathy for the terrorism diminished with the escalation of the violence to killings, however.

Today, young rebels are largely apolitical. Leftist anarchist terrorists are said by West German security agencies to have made some attempt to exploit the aversion for West German society among today's squatters, ecologists, and opponents of military ceremony, nuclear power, and nuclear weapons. So far the terrorists seem to have won few strong sympathizers in today's urban counterculture, however. A minority of violence-inclined members of the counterculture arm themselves with gasoline bombs and slingshots and go into demonstrations spoiling for a battle with the police. But the vast majority avoid even this much violence.

Nonetheless, a number of West German observers have expressed concern that the anti-nuclear-missile movement that is popular among many younger West Germans might spawn new violence against American missile sites here as the 1983 date for deployment of the new weapons approaches. In another direction some observers have expressed concern that West German police might have to use such force to break up protests against missile sites as to polarize the country and be politically unacceptable.

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