Here’s a piece from ‘Invisible Armies: Terrorism into the 1990s’ … published in 1987, it’s one of those books that “through detailed case studies … provides a sobering analysis of the tactics of terrorism, as well as the rationale and motivation behind such outrages as … and ” It probes the psychology of such terrorists as the Italian Red Brigades, France’s Action Sedition … ” The Arm The Spirit library had a number of this type of book …
Below is a section from the book about the “new european alliance” which deals with AD, CCC, RAF, etc, with an emphasis on AD …
One of the most disturbing developments in terrorism in the 1980s is the New European alliance, involving French, German and Belgian groups, with sporadic parallel action from Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Dutch comrades, apparently pledged to attack government, international agency, and business targets. The targets are united by the anti- American, anti-business, anti-military, anti-nuclear, anti-NATO themes of the terrorists’ politics. The prime mover of this alliance appears to be the French revolutionary group Action Directe.
Action Directe is a second-generation European terrorist group. Its roots do not lie directly in the student evenements and movements of May 1968, which to a large degree gave rise to both Italian and German terrorism: but its politics lie in the same tradition. Since the group was first heard of in 1979 it has had a single leader, but the political odyssey of Jean-Marc Rouillan shows an opportunistic willingness to espouse political causes or marginalised minorities, primarily to keep the group active In this respect, Action Directe is unusual – no permanent, emphatic political objective has animated all its actions, though since 1984 its ideology has crystallised into a jargon ridden Marxism-Lenninism.
The activities of Action Directe have passed through five clear phases:
1. 1979-80 – The group first became violently operational in firing machine-gun bursts at the facades of French government ministry buildings, the offices of large companies, and the French National Police Headquarters. In 1980, a shell was fired from a rocket launcher at the offices of the Ministry of Transport – one of the twenty attacks in the same year in
Paris and Toulouse.
2. 1981-82 – Action Directe took up pro-Palestinian, anti- Israeli actions, taking their cue not least from the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. They operated in tandem with a group named Fractions Armees Revolutionnaires Libanaises (FARL), using the same weapons and issuing joint communiques. Together, they assassinated two diplomats – an American and an Israeli.
3. 1983 – The Italian period. Action Directe collaborated with Italian terrorists who had taken refuge in Paris. Members of Prima Linea and COLP (Communisti Organisati per la Liberazione del Proletariat) joined Action Directe terrorists in hold-ups to raise funds for both their purposes – in the case of the Italians, to establish a ‘foreign front’ for Red Brigade terrorism in Italy. In one hold-up, two French policemen were shot dead and one wanted Italian terrorist, Ciro Rizzato, was killed in the gun battle.
4. 1984 – Action Directe leaders took refuge in Belgium where the CCC (Cellules Communistes Combattantes ) existed as their counterpart. This was the beginning of a practical co- operation which brought Action Directe into the anti-American, anti-NATO Marxist camp of existing European terrorist groups, including CCC, the Red Army Faction of Germany (by now in its third generation) and even the Portuguese group, FP-25. A major theft of explosives in Belgium provided the means for more than thirty bombings in France, Belgium and West Germany.
5. 1985 – Action Directe reverted to pursuing goals inside France, related for the first time to the internal politics of the country: notably with three bombs to protest the broadcasting airtime permitted to the ultra-rightwing National Front leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and with bombs protesting French economic involvement in South Africa.
The leader of Action Directe, Jean-Marc Rouillan, was born in 1953 in Auch, the provincial capital of Gers. The French capacity for romanticising the most dangerous and daring criminals has already created a myth of an intelligent, cultivated art-lover, half-paranoid and half-megalomaniac, who never takes off his bullet-proof vest. Rouillan and his constant companion Nathalie Menigon, who is two years younger, were students in the ‘pink city’ of Toulouse, where they became involved in anti-Franco protest groups in the early 1970s – the last few years of the dictator’s rule in Spain. Rouillan allegedly took part in cross-border ‘missions’ to strike at Spanish targets, besides many demonstrations and some physical assaults on Spanish interests in France. In 1974 he joined a clandestine organisation, the Groupes d’Action Rivolutionnaire Internationalistes (GARI), and like many students then and now, wore his radicalism around his neck in the shape of a Palestinian keffiyeh headdress. His anti-Spanish actions got him arrested in 1974, and he was freed in 1977. He was re-arrested in July 1978 and spent another six months in jail. At that stage, in 1979, Rouillan, Menigon and others (including Regis Schleicher, Frederic Oriach, and two French-Algerians, Mohand Hamami and Laouari Ben Shellal) founded Action Directe.
A former radical associate, ‘Alain’, analyses the political background to the establishment of Action Directe in terms of the wider political context of the radical left in France. A French counterpart of the Italian Autonomia Operaia (Workers’ Autonomy) participated in the Paris demonstration by steel-workers from the dying industrial town of Longwy, and were surprised by the violence which occurred in the mass march. ‘The problem was to find the capacity to widen these protests into a movement of mass support: with a repressive government, a mass movement is impossible, but a very radical part of the movement starts to consider “military organisation”.’ The irony was that the French Autonomie worked.on the assumption that the state was always repressive and, ‘Alain’ says, ‘never entertained the idea that the Socialists would gain power by election – we thought it could only come by other means. Then the government stole the radicals’ clothes, and cut the ground from under their feet, by taking up the themes that radicalise people – the Third WorId, South African apartheid and so on.’ He continues: ‘There was a failure of political organisation by the radical Left, and it deepened the split between them and the people who were turning towards military force and clandestine activity – who never believed that any elected government would meet their political ideals.
‘Terrorism always arises when there are no pre-eminent political issues to unite and maintain an organised public movement. And terrorists, people who support the militaristic groups, are much more efficient than radical activists – they are the other branch of the institutional form of politics.’ So, according to ‘Alain’, the radicals who maintain legality and legitimacy are stuck in a middle ground of impotence, while the ‘real’ politicians and the ‘efficient’ terrorists slug out the real battles. That was also the view of the founders of Action Directe: ‘The concept of Action Directe, and the group itself, developed from an absence of debate on the issues where they chose their targets’ (i.e., defence, NATO, international monetary systems, American capitalism dominating the West). They were against the institutionalisation of the movement and criticised such a development as “mere words” – when they wanted literally “Direct Action”.’
The political theory of direct action is mysterious: ‘Alain’ refers to a Maoist view that there need be no complicated political motive for a revolutionary act. ‘First you act, then consider – was it well or badly done? How was it received by the people?’ He makes the analogy that terrorism represents the same approach to political problems – arbitrary, dramatic, and sensational – that the media employs in relation to ‘facts’, claiming that the real power lies not with the participants in events, but with the editor who has the power to emphasise coverage, write headlines and change meanings.
For ideologies of the extreme left, violence in itself is not an issue; the world is full of it, they say: state terror, wars devouring human cannon-fodder, hunger, drought, disease. The only interesting question, they believe, which arises with the violence in political confrontation, is what effect it has. ‘People in Autonomie used to say “we have committed an act of violence during a demonstration in order to avoid worse acts of violence occurring in isolation” – a kind of de-escalation,’ says ‘Alain’. Thus it is interesting to reflect on the purposes of Action Directe’s leader Jean-Marc Rouillan, at least in the light of ‘Alain’s’ description: ‘He is very important, definitely the leader. He is un baroudeur, the kind of man who would have gone off to fight in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. He was closely linked with the anti-Franco movement in the last years. He was absolutely not interested in intellectual matters, political theory, or anything like that. But he’s not a mere gangster.’
Action Directe became operationally viable as a clandestine organisation of real force with a major robbery in the northern French town of Conde-sur-I’ Escaut, on 29 August 1979. At five minutes to noon, five men and a woman burst into the main hall of the tax collection offices at 10 rue Notre-Dame, in the centre of town. They were all armed and masked, some of them wearing welders’ face-masks, some caps, and some in bullet-proof vests. They rounded up the staff of the tax office, uttered the classic instruction ‘Hands up, don’t move’, and cleared away 16 million francs from the safes and the piles of cash that were being counted when they arrived. They had walkie-talkie contact with other colleagues outside in stolen cars, and their militarily precise operation was over as quickly
as it had begun.
According to a woman member of Action Directe, interviewed by Radio France-Inter in 1981, ‘The guys who did the robbery did it for the revolutionary movement in general. So the money was used for the whole revolutionary movement, not only the French movement, but certainly in part for international solidarity, for infrastructure, to get hold of papers, weapons, and to help comrades in jail.’ It was widely believed, from the hallmarks of the raid, that the attack not only served to assist ‘the international movement’, but had been carried out with international assistance. Both the Italian Prima Linea (Front Line) group and the Spanish GRAPO (Revolutionary Group of the First of October) were allegedly connected.
In France, the money raised by such robberies – ‘proletarian expropriation’ as Rouillan called them – enabled Action Directe to go underground and obtain the weapons used in twenty or more attacks on French government and business in 1979-80.
Living a clandestine life is difficult, said Rouillan: ‘We try to do these hold-ups as little as possible, only what is necessary. Stealing money from banks is justified, but we don’t do it for fun. We do it out of need, in order to function, to buy apartments, cars, weapons, papers – false papers necessary for living underground.’
Like all terrorists, Action Directe depends greatly on false papers – identity cards, passports, driving licences, social security numbers, car registration and insurance documents. Sometimes these can be bought, but more often genuine, blank papers have to be stolen from the original source – either the local government offices where they are issued, or the printers where they are first produced. On 5 August 1980, Action Directe attacked the Mairie of the 14th arrondissement in Paris.
One of the participants, a young woman, told Radio France-Inter what they were after: ‘It was pretty simple: basically, we needed identity papers, in fact all the papers we could get from inside. We decided to go in to the Mairie, with some of the comrades, and help ourselves. We got the thing together very quickly, we had enough cars that we had stolen already. We arrived; we got out of the cars, went in, and we warned the people inside, “We have come to get papers, we haven’t had any for a long time.” We made them open the safes, and we took away all the papers and rubber stamps that we thought were useful. Then we went out, got back in the cars and left. There was no violence because the people reacted very well and weren’t unduly alarmed. They saw that we were calm and precise. Of course, we had our hoods up so that we could not be recognised, and the weapons were just to make an impression.’
Just over a month later, on 13 September 1980, Rouillan’s secret life came to a temporary end: at 6.15 p.m. in the rue Pergolese, Paris, a metallic coloured Peugeot 604 crawled along the street. Suddenly there was gunfire, and at the entry to an apartment building Rouillan was surrounded by police officers before he could reach for his Magnum. 357. A woman leapt out of the car and emptied both magazines of her pistol before being seized by police, who found a grenade in the vehicle. Her name was Nathalie Menigon, regarded by police as in some ways more radical and more dangerous than Rouillan himself. The two leaders were tried and jailed and the round-up of Action Directe continued, with most of the principal figures in jail by the end of 1980.
But in May 1981, following a traditional but controversial practice of incoming presidents, Francois Mitterrand declared an amnesty for several thousand prisoners whose crimes supposedly had a political element: and to the amazement of many, by no means all counted among Mitterrand’s political opponents, Rouillan and Menigon, along with other leading Action Directe members were released from jail. (Mitterrand’s simultaneous promise to reinforce France’s traditional role as a land of exile for political refugees prompted a stream of wanted, and in some cases convicted, Italian terrorists to smuggle themselves across the Italian-French border and make their way to Paris where they could evade trial, jail and extradition.) Rouillan had spent less than eleven months in custody, being released on 7 August 1981; Menigon just celebrated an anniversary of her imprisonment and was freed on 21 September.
Both Menigon and Rouillan gave secret interviews to Radio France-Inter; since their release Rouillan has given only one other interview, to the leftwing newspaper Liberation, in August 1982. And in October 1982 he supplied written replies to questions put by the communist newspaper Le Maim, But neither occasion offered any guide to the overall intentions of Action Directe. Thus Rouillan’s somewhat hazy description of the political objectives of Action Directe – as outlined to France-Inter in 1981- is of particular interest: ‘We want a communist society, with every proletarian conscious of his class identity – that is to say the destruction of capitalist society based on the merchants profiting from the wage-earning class. And we think that the end of man’s exploitation of man will come with the destruction of this capitalist society, full of unemployment, misery, exploitation, organised murder, accidents at work in the name of profit. We are true communists. ‘
In late 1981 and early 1982 Action Directe went underground, disappearing into the Arab ghettoes of the 18th and 20th arrondissements in Paris. Here they made contact with, and recruited to their banner, radical Arabs, members of Turkish workers’ groups who lived on the margins of legality, and people from the squatters’ movement. All their causes were thrown into the stew of Action Directe policy. At this stage Rouillan allegedly also pursued some contacts with the ‘legitimate left’. One unconfirmed story suggests that when Rouillan was arrested, on complaints from the owners of a ‘squat’ property which turned out to be sheltering seventeen illegal Turkish workers, he was released within an hour after pressure on the investigating magistrate by a Socialist Party Deputy. Another rumour was that some of Rouillan’s comrades had hijacked an official car belonging to Lionel Jospin, the Secretary of the Socialist Party, and stolen certain ‘important papers’ which they quickly photocopied and scattered to a number of locations, some outside France. The inference was that any effort to prosecute Rouillan could be undermined by embarrassing revelations – of an unknown nature – about the government party.
In March 1982 Action Directe published its political manifesto entitled Pour un Projet Communiste. As a literary work it has no merit, consisting of indigestible Marxist-Leninist jargon. Its critique of world capitalism, and the particular examples that are singled out for vitriolic political abuse, do however suggest some of the targets of later violence. One ‘axis of intervention’ is defined as ‘French imperialism – supreme arena of decadent capitalism’; and the document specifically attacks the International Monetary Fund, OPEC
and American multinationals in these terms: ‘America has systematically financed the invasion of the world by her multinationals and satisfied the hamburger-eaters of the world (MacDonalds – of course) thanks to the International Monetary System sustaining her power and the continuing domination of the developed world.’ In terms of domestic politics, the document bemoaned unemployment, empty housing and high rents, the difficulties of foreign workers, and the increasingly international character of French industrial corporations.
During 1982 Palestinian terrorists (largely Syrian-backed) were particularly active, not only in the Middle East but in Europe. Paris had inherited London’s former unenviable position as the battlefield for Middle Eastern terrorism, yet it was in London that Abu Nidal terrorists gunned down the Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov as he left a Park Lane reception. Israel’s response to this and an accumulation of other provocations was to mount ‘Operation Peace for Galilee’ – the invasion of Southern Lebanon which ultimately transformed that country, drove the Palestinians out of Beirut, and lasted three years. But it was in Paris that most terrorist actions against Israeli or Jewish interests took place. Even before the invasion, Action Directe’s Arab connections had mounted an attack on the Israeli trade mission in April 1982. In the same month, an Israeli diplomat was shot dead: this attack, too, was claimed by Fractions Armies Rivaluttonnaires Libanaises – as was the killing of the American attache, Charles Ray. The FARL communique, later discovered to have been printed by the same equipment as Action Directe material, was distributed in French, Arabic and Turkish.
Over the following months a ‘hot summer’ of terrorism swept Paris, including the machine-gun attack on Goldenberg’s restaurant in the Jewish Marais, which killed six people. Less publicised were three Action Directe bombings on Jewish targets, which Jean-Marc Rouillan justified to Liberation as ‘a perfectly normal reply to the situation in Lebanon. This is international solidarity. Action Directe actually claims the paternity of its attacks.’
The wave of terrorism that afflicted France was too much even for President Mitterrand – whose amnesty of little more than a year earlier was seen by many as at least partly responsible for the bloodshed. Mitterrand went on national television to announce the setting up of special anti-terrorist forces, the appointment of a Minister for Public Security, Joseph Franceschi, and, with effect from 17 August 1982, the proscription of Action Directe. Two months later, Rouillan gave his reaction by letter to Le Matin:
‘In 1981 we came out of prison as militants of Action Directe, and in August 1982 our situation was exactly the same. All the reasons invoked to justify our dissolution were as valid in 1981, at the time of our amnesty. I feel like a prisoner who has gone absent on parole. Dissolving Action Directe prevents it from publicising its ideas, or expressing itself, and obliges its militants to go underground.’
At the same time, one such militant supporter of Action Directe was released from jail. Mme. Helyette Besse was one of Action Directe’s most unlikely luminaries – a fiftyish, swarthy and chubby lady anarchist who was the proprietor of one of Paris’s most out-of-the-way backstreet ‘alternative’ bookshops, called ‘Le Jargon Libre’. Now she announced the reactivation of Defense Active, a committee of support for ‘French Political Prisoners’. The committee had first been formed to protest at the omission of some names from President Mitterrand’s amnesty – some ‘presumed’ Action Directe members, some autonomist militants from NAPAP (Noyaux Armes Pour l’Autonomie Populaire), some anti-nuclear militants, some people held on suspicion of involvement in the Conde-sur-l’Escaut robbery. The revived committee, according to Besse, would ‘regroup, in other respects, militants, ex- militants and sympathisers of Action Directe’. However, her personal freedom to campaign was limited by the fact that she was herself awaiting trial for possession of three blank Italian identity cards. (In August 1983 she was found guilty and fined 500 francs.)
Despite the new illegality of the organisation, Action Directe continued to try to build, by involving disparate political minorities. It also plunged into the community of Italian ‘political exiles’ – finally becoming implicated in a brutal shooting incident where two policemen died. This followed a robbery in the last week of May 1983, when a Parisian public relations consultant was ejected from behind the steering-wheel of his car as he left a smart restaurant in the 17th arrondissement. Two men brandishing pistols forced him out and drove away. On 31 May, at about 2 p.m. in the avenue Trudaine, two policemen from the 9th arrondissement anti-robbery squad stopped the car and asked the occupants for their papers. Both officers were shot dead on the spot. At the end of the car chase that followed, a wanted Prima Linea terrorist, Ciro Rizzato, was shot dead by police, but his companion(s) escaped.
By the end of 1983 (when Helyette Besse was arrested by customs officials for irregular holding of foreign currency, in the shape of $10,030) Action Directe was beginning to look towards international collaboration. A number of new extreme leftist publications appeared in radical bookshops: L ‘Internationale, Combattre pour le Communisme, Ligne Rouge (which specialised in the publication of terrorists’ communiques, claiming responsibility for attacks) and Subversion were among them. It was Subversion which published their political agenda: ‘We must build a fighting Communist International, to destroy the party of war. This is the party of the capitalists, of multinationals dominated by American interests. The evolution of Western Europe is now the cornerstone of world struggle. So we must detach Italy from NATO, as that country is one of the weakest links. Elsewhere we must smash French social democracy, a traditional agent of imperialist wars.’
These unusual publications represent the tip of the iceberg of European terrorist co-operation. Subversion is allegedly edited from a prison cell by Action Directe veteran Frederic Oriach, who is serving a six-year sentence for attacks on Israeli targets in 1982. The magazine is published in Brussels: it has carried contributions in the name of the Red Army Faction, the Red Brigades, Iranian fedayeen and Action Directe. Another review, Correspondences lnternationales, has as its publication director the advocate Jacques Verges, whose career has included defending political extremists of every complexion- Klaus Barbie was one of his clients.
Subversion was the subject of an extraordinary police incident in Brussels. Its articles, identifying the USA, NATO, and the French arms industry as legitimate targets for the class struggle, naturally provoked interest from the Belgian authorities. The first issue of Subversion carried two contact addresses, one (false) in Paris, the other a Brussels post office box situated a few yards from the home of a known militant, a professional printer suspected of contacts with local terrorist groups. The Brussels police sought a warrant from the authorities to open the postal box, but were refused permission; and although the second edition still carried the address (though not the one in Paris) no action was taken. The printer, subsequently, was directly implicated in terrorist attacks committed by the Belgian CCC.
From the beginning of 1984, the various component parts of the European terrorist alliance began to turn their theories into actions, waging a really substantial campaign against the kind of targets identified in their political tracts. On 25 January 1984 a quantity of plastic explosives blew up at the Military Studies Bureau of the Aerospatiale Company at Chatillon; and on 29 January another bomb exploded at the Panhard-Levassor factory in Paris. Both attacks caused substantial damage.
Action Directe’s new Belgian headquarters was almost certainly in Brussels – where Rouillan and Menigon had helped to establish the CCC, and to set up the strong alliance with German groups. The Belgian police were getting more alert to the dangers of their presence with every bomb that exploded in the name of the anti-NATO, anti-military alliance. On 13 March 1984 they came within an ace of capturing the three most-wanted terrorists in Europe, when Rouillan, Menigon and Regis Schleicher together returned a hired car to a car rental office at 176 de la Chaussee de Vleurgat, in Brussels. At about 9 that Tuesday morning, they drove up to the office in a brown metallic Toyota Camry, hired the previous Friday by a well-dressed man. He gave the name of Jacques Queriaux, a Belgian citizen whose identity card gave his birthplace as Quevy – a town near the French border which was explanation enough for his strong French accent. But Queriaux was Schleicher; and since 8a.m. armed members of the Brussels Justice Police had been waiting for his return.
By some extraordinary mistake, a single officer – the twenty-seven-year-old Jean Marie Arnould – was sent into the office, where he went to speak to a man whom he took to be an employee of the agency. It was Schleicher, who immediately grabbed Arnould’s pistol, and with another man (presumed to be Rouillan) ran out to the car. The office manager, Christian Lemmens, told the press later: ‘I thought they were trying to leave without paying, so I followed them into the street. The car was parked in front of our windows, with the motor running. Inside there was a woman with long hair, wearing a wool hat and a blouson jacket. She opened the door, pointed a pistol at me, and yelled “Get lost, fast!” At that point I realised that one of the three men was being held by the others. They all jumped into the Toyota and it disappeared. ‘
Inspector Arnould enjoyed only a short journey with his captors – after a few minutes down the road to Waterloo they bundled him out of the car, having relieved him of his police identity card, his pistol (a GP7.65) and his radio set. But they let him keep his handcuffs, with his hands locked tightly in them. Despite roadblocks and a police hunt throughout Belgium, the leadership of Action Directe escaped en masse. And despite the nature of the crimes for which the three were wanted by police across Europe, the French press relished their narrow escape. Liberation’s headline on the story said, ‘Jean-Marc Rouillan smashes a mousetrap and scoots away!’ Le Quotidien de Paris, referring to the trio’s handling of their police hostage, said, ‘Terrorists, yes; but conscious not to forget traditional French elegance!’
There is no clear motive, except perhaps a sense of narrow escape, for Schleicher having left Belgium that day or the next. Possibly Rouillan ordered him back to France because his face was now well-known in Belgium – at least by Inspector Arnould. But two days later he was in France – and in police custody. Surveillance had revealed that the leadership of Action Directe was planning to regroup once again – either in Italy or in the Midi – and that Helyette Besse was handling the logistics of renting houses and raising funds. On the morning of 13 March, she and a woman courier who worked for Action Directe got off the Paris-Marseilles overnight train at Avignon, and headed for a rented villa at Pontet: a house Helyette Besse had already used as a base and arsenal for her Catalan comrades. A substantial force of police kept the house under surveillance, in the belief that they would finally round up Rouillan, Menigon and Schleicher together. When Schleicher arrived alone, they did not wait to see if the others would follow – forty police officers burst into the house, fifteen of them carrying pump-action rifles, and surrounded Schleicher and Besse.
If the arrest was a setback for Action Directe, it barely halted the development of the ‘European campaign’. Just as the big cash haul from Conde-sur-l’Escaut apparently sustained the European revolutionaries for several years, so another theft in Belgium now provided the CCC-AD-RAF terrorists with the wherewithal for almost as many attacks as they had the will and the numbers to stage. On the night of 2-3 June 1984, terrorists broke into the explosives store of a quarry at Ecaussines, thirty-five kilometres south of Brussels, and stole almost a ton of dynamite and plastic explosives. If any confirmation was needed of the uses to which such a haul was to be put, it came with the first explosion – not in Belgium, but in France- on 23 August 1984. About twenty-three kilos of the explosive blew up in a car parked outside the Paris headquarters of the Western European Union, at 83 avenue du President Wilson. This attack, by Action Directe, was closely followed by another on NATO oil pipelines in Belgium, by CCC; and a third, on a military training school in Bavaria, West Germany, by the Red Army Faction. There followed a further eight attacks on industrial, military and political targets in Belgium between October and the end of the year.
Between January and June 1985 there was a lull in Belgium: a pause in activity, however, which coincided with an escalation of attacks in both Germany and France. With the turn of the year, Action Directe devoted itself again to French political matters: that is, concentrating on the specifically French element of the familiar target areas – defence contractors, industrial multinationals and so on – and launching attacks relating to French domestic and foreign policy.
In West Germany, on 7 January 1985, the Red Army Faction raided the explosives depot of a cement factory in Geisingen, Baden-Wiirttemburg. It was not a great haul, but they got away with 35 rolls of fuse cord and 376 detonator caps. These materials were almost certainly used in the first of a concentrated series of attacks on American military targets in West Germany on 7 August 1985, which was a model of terrorist tactics and rhetoric. A car bomb consisting of explosives and gas bottles killed two American citizens and injured more than twenty when it blew up at the US Air Force’s Rhein-Main base near Frankfurt. The attack was claimed jointly by the RAF and Action Directe: their communique claimed the attack was a blow struck against imperialism: ‘The USAF base is a centre for war against the Third World, used to transport American troops and military equipment for acts of intervention in the Middle East and Africa.’
The groups later admitted to the murder of a US service-man whose identity card had enabled them to get access to the base. The second-hand Volkswagen car which served to transport the bomb carried US military licence plates, and had been bought in Frankfurt ten days earlier. West German police named the suspected purchaser of the car as Sigrid Sterneback, ‘a veteran RAF hardliner’ who has been on the wanted list since 1977, with a price on her head of 50,000 Deutschmarks.
On 15 June 1985, an apparently new terrorist group attacked the American Forces Network Pomcus depot, in Monchengladbach. The attack was claimed by the ‘Fighting Unit for the Creation of an Anti-Imperialist Front in Western Europe’ – a title which neatly describes the collective aims of the AD-RAF -CCC alliance. Their letter demanded the ‘immediate release’ of a jailed RAF terrorist, Gunter Sonnenberg, and the ‘bringing together of the prisoners of the Red Army faction and the anti-imperialist resistance in groups capable of interaction’.
Yet another new name – or possibly a new group – emerged in late June. On Wednesday 19 June 1985 a parcel bomb exploded in a luggage locker at Frankfurt International Airport, killing three people. At first there was a mysterious silence – breaking the normal pattern of terrorism, where the prime rule is to make a public claim. But three days later a bomb exploded in a letter box of the Bayer Pharmaceuticals Company in the centre of Brussels. A few minutes afterwards, an anonymous caller to the police claimed responsibility for the bomb, saying it was a response to pollution of the North Sea by toxic waste, and the seizure by Spain of the Sirius – one of the campaign ships of the environmental pressure group Greenpeace, who promptly denied any connection with the terrorists.
Later the same day, staff at Agence France Presse in Paris found a letter: written in English, it read ‘Our brothers have just strike (sic) in Frankfurt Main. Congratulations’. The letter was headed, in French and English, ‘The Peace Conquerors’ – the same name given earlier the same day to Belgian police, and never heard elsewhere. Neither claim made mention of the other, but the.letter opened by Agence France- Presse in Paris went on to warn ‘Stop Nuisance – Stop Pollution – Stop Airport’ (presumably the airport extension at Frankfurt). The letter added: ‘Before the end of the month we’ll destroy a major Frankfurt Airport building, and a Jumbo Jet.’ This warning certainly evoked a frisson of shock – though little serious speculation of a link – when the next day, 23 June 1985, an Air India jet went to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Attacks continued in Belgium throughout 1985. No individual names had yet emerged in connection with the CCC. No details about the organisation had been discovered. There are many instances in the past of terrorist groups inventing new names to distract and confuse the security forces pursuing them. It was tempting to speculate that the Belgian comrades- in-arms were a fiction, a Red herring to scatter attention away from Action Directe and the RAF. The European police forces were working on the assumption that the new terrorist alliance had four leaders: Jean-Marc Rouillan and Nathalie Menigon, of Action Directe; Inge Viett, a longstanding comrade of the Baader-Meinhof and Red Army Faction ranks; and a Belgian anarchist (and former member of Action Directe itself), Pierre Carretre, aged thirty-three, the son of a policeman and a printer by trade, who had first come to the notice of the police when he championed the cause of imprisoned terrorists in West Germany. (Late in 1985, however, the concrete reality of CCC’s membership was confirmed with the arrest, after fourteen months of police investigation, of Pierre Carrette and three associates: Bertrand Sasoye, Didier Chevolet and Pascal Vandegeerde. The trio had been under surveillance, and when they met Carrette at a hamburger bar opposite Namur station, police blocked all the exits and moved in. All four were armed, but they did not resist arrest: subsequent searches of safe houses revealed documents relating to the CCC’s twenty-seven bombing attacks, and police claimed they found Carrette’s fingerprints on leaflets. All four had been filmed by police as they revisited the scenes of their attacks.)
By far the most dramatic escalation of terrorist attacks however, came in France. In January 1985, the first communique signed jointly by Action Directe and the Red Army Faction was delivered to AFP in Paris.lt discussed ‘the essential tasks facing communist guerillas in Western Europe’:
“We must construct a politico-military front in Western Europe, for the central project, in the present phase of imperialist strategy, is the attempt to unite European states into homogeneous structure, into one hard block, which would b completely integrated in the noose of imperialist power – NATO.
The new policy of NATO puts particular emphasis on the placing of Euromissiles, the revitalisation of the Western European Union, the creation in France of the Rapid Deployment Force, co-operation in weapons areas by NATO members, discussion of German participation in the French strike force, and its integration into NATO.”
The production of this document has an interesting history. An Italian who was a member of Action Directe, before becoming a police informer, gave a secret interview to Liberation in which he told of a meeting in Paris between French, Italian and German ‘Euroterrorists’ :’I went to a meeting-place on 6 January to take part in a meeting of the Committee of Support for the RAF hunger-strikers. We were very excited because we knew that a woman militant from the RAF would be there. She was actually there with another RAF woman, and there were people from Action Directe. Afterwards I was given this draft – written by the Germans, reviewed by the French – it was agreed at another meeting the next day devoted to Franco-German links. To get this alliance, each side had made concessions: the Germans had distanced themselves from the Eastern bloc, and Action Directe was abandoning its libertarian side.’
On 25 January the US State Department – taking note of the new ‘Euroterrorist’ communique – predicted terrorist acts against ‘targets related to NATO, and persons working in the defence area’. That same day Action Directe demonstrated what it meant to drop its ‘libertarian’ attitude. Inspector- General Rene Audran, Director of International Affairs at the French Ministry of Defence, was shot dead with eight bullets from a Colt pistol at 8.50 p.m. outside his house in avenue des Gressets in Celle-Saint-Cloud. Twenty-five minutes later, AFP in Paris received a call. A woman’s voice said, ‘Get a pen. Action Directe claims the execution of Rene Audran. Signed by the Commando Elisabeth Von Dyck, a member of the Red Army Faction, executed in Nuremberg by the German police.’
Audran was one of the most senior figures of the French military-industrial complex and his murder sent shock waves throughout the – French defence industry, which employs almost a million people. He had been in his post since 1983, after a long career in the arms industry, and was a technical expert of international stature; but he had no known political
Even though the German connection may have been a deliberate false lead, French police took the view that Action Directe almost certainly did employ a German comrade to help in making the hit: not least because the German authorities were also pursuing enquiries into a nearly identical murderof Audran’s close European colleague and rough equal in the West German Defence Ministry, Ernst Zimmerman. Two terrorists had rung the doorbell of his suburban home early in the morning, on the pretext of delivering a parcel, tied up his wife, and shot Zimmerman dead in his bedroom.
On 29 July, in yet another similar incident directed at a similar target, Spanish terrorists assassinated Rear-Admiral Fausto Escrigas Estrada, the Director-General of Defence Policy. At 8.30 a.m. the admiral was travelling to his Madrid office in his chauffeur-driven car, when a vehicle ahead stopped and blocked the road. One or two men fired at the admiral’s car with a sub-machine gun: the admiral died within minutes, and his driver was seriously wounded. The killers’ getaway car was found in another part of Madrid, loaded with explosives, and despite an attempt to defuse the devices, the car blew up. Witnesses later identified one of the gunmen from police photographs as a member of the ET A-Militar ‘Spain Squad’ . Four months later, the death of yet another senior defence industry executive – in Belgium – caused yet more speculation about the Euroterrorist campaign against the arms and defence industry. The body of Juan Mendez-Playa, a senior sales executive for Belgium’s largest arms manufacturer, was found dead in his car, shot six times in the body. No clues to the killer’s identity were apparent.
Action Directe attacks on military-industrial targets continued through the year in France: at 5.30 a.m. on 27 April 1985 they exploded a car-bomb at the Parisian headquarters of one of the Euroterrorist alliance’s principal enemies – the International Monetary Fund. The car, a red Renault 11, had been hijacked earlier and filled with explosives and gas bottles. The explosion caused every single window in the seven-storey building to shatter, besides many in neighbouring buildings.
It seems likely that a similar attack was planned for the same weekend by Action Directe, who frequently grouped their attacks within hours or at most days of each other for greatest effect; but their plans were disrupted by the arrest of the delivery man bringing the explosives for the job – once again from the Ecaussines haul – from Belgium. On 28 April, customs officers and officials of the PAF (Police de I’Air et des Frontieres) arrested a twenty-eight-year-old Turkish courier, confirming the pattern and supply-chains of the Euroterrorist operations of 1985. Muzaffer Kacar – originally recruited before Action Directe was banned, in the Goutte d’Or district of Paris – had arrived at the Gare du Nord by train from Strasbourg – with a detour through Brussels. In his bags the police discovered four sticks (sixteen kilos) of dynamite, four detonators, eight false Belgian identity cards and eight false Belgian driving licences. Serial numbers confirmed the link to the theft from Ecaussines. Kacar’s passport revealed that he had been shuttling between Paris and Brussels, where Rouillan and Menigon were still assumed to be in hiding, and lived in Mulhouse, very close to the German border, which was interpreted by police as confirmation of the theory that Euroterrorism was triangular in shape.
Action Directe’s attention was also directed to French domestic politics, where one of the most divisive developments recently has been the emergence of substantial support for the ultra-conservative and racist National Front Party, led by the supposedly charismatic figure in the shape of Jean-Marie Le Pen. The level of support for his party has given broadcasters little choice but to offer him opportunites to speak on their programmes – but it was too much for Action Directe. After he had appeared on Radio France- Inter’s Face au Public, and Antenne 2 television’s L’Heure de Virite, Action Directe fired both barrels. Ten minutes apart, at about 5 a.m. on 14 October 1985, bombs exploded at the Maison de la Radio, by the river Seine on Quai Kennedy, and at the offices of Antenne 2. Both places received warnings a few minutes beforehand, and a telephone call to AFP gave the location of an Action Directe communique.
The terrorists accused Le Pen of ‘pushing the limits to see how far Capital can go in attacking the working class and dividing it with racism. While Le Pen is preaching Holy Capitalist War under the lights of radio and TV studios, the French military is carrying it out on various territories.’ A third protest bomb exploded on 17 October, at the High Authority for Broadcasting; Action Directe declared that this bomb was the work of the ‘Commando Ahmed Mouley’ – an Algerian ‘martyr’ (marking the racist context) who died in the Battle of Algiers on 3 March 1957.
Finally, Helyette Besse came to trial. Described variously as Action Directe’s ‘Hot Mama’ and its ‘Good Fairy’, she had been in jail charged with ‘criminal association’ since 17 March 1984. But the earlier charge of illegally holding foreign currency came to court on 30 September 1985. Her statement to the court summed up her predicament exactly: ‘I am here because I am an anarchist, a Communist, and a militant member of Action Directe. This charge of illegal possession of currency is a side-issue.’ She further claimed that France was a ‘state which refuses to recognise political prisoners’. On 21 October the court found her guilty and ordered the confiscation of her illegal $10,000, a fine of 80,000 francs and a suspended prison sentence of one month. According to Helyette Besse, speaking with the unrepentant pride which guarantees the continuation of terrorism, criminality was irrelevant: ‘I am neither a criminal, nor a smuggler: but an Action Directe militant.’