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Murder Of Man Charged With Transforming East German Economy

April 2, 1991 GMT

BONN, Germany (AP) _ The murder of an industrialist charged with transforming eastern Germany’s economy into a free-market system raised fears Tuesday that the woes of unification may fuel increased violence.

The leftist Red Army Faction terrorist gang claimed responsibility for the killing of 58-year-old Detlev Rohwedder, who was shot by gunmen lurking outside his mansion in Duesseldorf in western Germany.

Found on a bench nearby were binoculars and a note from the Red Army claiming responsibility.

Yet many politicians and observers were asking whether renegade members of former East Germany’s Stasi secret police may have been involved in order to throw a wrench into unity’s delicate machinery.

Spokesman Willy Fundermann, Bundeskriminalamt, a sort of German FBI, said ″non-typical″ methods were used that did not bear the clear signature of any particular group. He did not elaborate.

Rolf Hannich, spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Karlsruhe, said all that could be said with certainty was that the Red Army had claimed responsibility.

Whoever the culprits were, the assassination raised the specter of violence at a sensitive time for a country united only six months ago on Wednesday.

Many in the east are upset by their region’s economic problems, and Rohwedder’s agency had come under particular fire in recent weeks for allegedly failing to keep east German businesses afloat and jobs available.

He was appointed by Conservative Chancellor Helmut Kohl last summer as president of the Treuhandanstalt, an agency that assumed ownership of virtually all goverment assets in eastern Germany.

IG Metall, the giant German labor union, suspended weekly Monday demonstrations in Leipzig because of the attack. The protests had denounced the slow pace of east Germany’s recovery and criticized Treuhand, which means Trustee.

Jochen Kletzin, the union’s spokesman, said the union feared further protests could lead to an ″escalation of violence.″

Others feared that leftist radicals might try to win supporters among disgruntled eastern Germans.

Manfred Stolpe, governor of eastern Germany’s Brandenburg state, called the assassination ″a dangerous signal that political criminals want to exploit the mood in the east.″

ZDF television, without giving its sources, said that ″there is also suspicion″ that former Stasi members were involved.

Just last week, German justice officials said the Stasi had trained Red Army Faction members who tried to kill a U.S. general and other soldiers in West Germany in 1981.

Also last week, unknown assailants firebombed a Treuhandanstalt office in Berlin. There was speculation, still unproven, that Stasi agents were involved because information about former secret police workers was kept there.

Erwin Huber, a conservative political ally of Kohl, said he would not be surprised if the Stasi had been involved in Rohwedder’s death.

″We know that the Stasi worked together with the Red Army Faction terrorists,″ said Huber, head of the Christian Social Union, a Bavarian wing of Kohl’s Christian Democrats.

Huber demanded that federal police be allowed a look at Stasi archives to get a better idea of possible Stasi threats. The documents compiled by Stasi - formally known as east Germany’s Ministry for State Security - are kept in Berlin.

Law officials said the murder was clearly the work of professionals who had been observing the movements of Rohwedder, who was West Germany’s chief negotiator for economic cooperation with Communist East Germany in the 1970s. He was working in the study of his mansion in Duesseldorf late Monday night. Shots were fired from outside, he was killed and his wife, Hergard, was wounded in the arm. Her injury was not serious.

Chief Federal Prosecutor Alexander von Stahl told ZDF that the weapon was the same type as one used in a Feb. 13 shooting at the U.S. Embassy in Bonn also claimed by the Red Army, whose terrorism against U.S. military and business interests dates back two decades. No one was injured in that attack.

Officials said Rohwedder, whose office is in eastern Berlin, had declined special police protection to which he was entitled during the long Easter weekend.