The letter bomb terror left Austria in suspense 30 years ago.

“A call came from Styria: Something exploded.” This is how Robert Sturm, the spokesman for the special letter bomb commission for many years, describes December 3, 1993, which marked the beginning of an unprecedented case in Austrian criminal history: the bomb terror of Franz Fuchs from Southern Styria. The name “Bavarian Liberation Army”. He was responsible for four deaths, numerous injuries, 25 letter bombs and other attacks in Oberwart.

“This was the beginning of an almost four-year tragedy, a social, political and security challenge,” summarized Sturm, who was still far from handling media work on the case at the start of the series. “Standard” and APA. He didn’t take over until the operator of a dating agency was injured by a letter bomb in June 1995 – a few months after the pipe bomb attack in Oberwart that killed four people. In the face of endless public criticism of the initially unsuccessful investigations into the letter bomb case, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, headed by Caspar Eine (SPÖ), recognized the need for a press spokesman specifically for this purpose.

BBA’s biggest series was the first series with the ten-letter bomb. On Friday, December 3, 1993, ORF minority editor Silvana Meixner and Hartberg refugee pastor August Janisch were seriously injured. Two days later – on Sunday evening – the then Mayor of Vienna, Helmut Zilk (SPÖ), was seriously injured by a letter bomb and had to undergo emergency surgery. Zilk had only returned from Switzerland on Sunday evening and was sorting the mail. The explosive detonated and Zilk was seriously injured, especially in his left hand. This incident particularly shocked Austria and added a whole new dimension to the attacks.

On the same day, a letter sent to the Green Club leader of the time, Madeleine Petrovic, was seized. Among other letters, letters sent to then-Caritas President Helmut Schüller, Green Party representative Terezija Stoisits, and then-Women’s Minister Johanna Dohnal (SPÖ) also emerged over time.

The series broke amid an already politically charged atmosphere in Austria: Jörg Haider’s FPÖ was on the rise. And despite this split: Haider’s deputy Heide Schmidt no longer wanted to support the right-wing trend and left the party along with other liberal Freedom Party members in February 1993, after the so-called external referendum. There were also persistent allegations of links to right-wing extremists. The neo-Nazi People’s Loyal Extra-Parliamentary Opposition (VAPO) had already been crushed and its mastermind was sentenced to ten years in prison at the end of September 1993.

Considering the addressees of the bomb letters and the sender in the mails as “Count Starhemberg” (a reference to the city defender of Vienna during the Turkish siege of 1683), researchers immediately assumed that the author(s) were on the right. wing extremist circles. The first arrests occurred less than a week later; One of the suspects had previous connections with VAPO. Other arrests followed, including a man and his son who were released at the beginning of November. However, doubts soon arose about the authorship of the suspects. The three were ultimately charged, but were acquitted of responsibility for the attacks in December 1995. However, there were convictions to reopen.

The reappearance of the BBA during pre-trial detention also certainly contributed to the acquittal of the defendant: in August 1994, a bomb was found on the grounds of the Klagenfurt Rennerschule and taken to the airport. There it exploded and police officer Theo Kelz lost both arms. The media did not initially attribute the attack to BBA terrorism. Two other police officers were also injured. In October 1994 there was a second series of letter bombs: an employee from the guest worker department of the diocese of Feldkirch, the Klagenfurter Wieser-Verlag, the abbot of the Wilten Monastery in Tyrol and Hallein Papier AG were the addressees; All four explosive devices became known over time.

On the night of 5 February, the most serious attack of the series took place in a Roma settlement in Oberwart: a booby trap was detonated at a crossroads, and in the morning the bodies of four young men, residents of the settlement, were found. A plaque reading “Roma returned to India” was also found. It is assumed that the victims wanted to remove this panel and that this was linked to the booby trap. This was triggered when they took the tablet. “The Oberwart bomb was a social shock,” Sturm said. The next day an explosive also exploded in Stinatz, injuring an employee of the Burgenland environmental service.

Sturm himself only emerged in June 1995 as a media contact regarding the third series of letter bombs. In addition to Linz, the goal of this series was also goals in Germany. A letter bomb exploded in the editorial office of the TV channel “Pro 7” in Munich, injuring an employee of the addressee, presenter Arabella Kiesbauer. Thomas Rother, the general manager of the SPD in the town hall in the northern German city of Lübeck, was injured while opening the mail. The operator of a dating agency in Linz was also injured.

“The person in the organization has to deal with the media,” says Sturm, explaining how he got the job that made him known and even famous. Previously, an official from the then Counterterrorism Task Force (EBT) was in charge of organizational matters in the special commission based there. Investigators were sent to Linz regarding the letter bomb directed at the matchmaker. Sturm was given a phone call. “Robert, look here, the cell phone is here,” says Sturm. The rest is history: Sturm was linked to the case in 300 radio and 200 television interviews and nearly 8,000 quotes.

“I was the face of the letter bomb case,” he summarizes. “But it was never my fault, I did it out of professionalism.” Sturm was careful not to become “at odds” with the people he spoke to: “In my experience, the distance was good. There is neither friendship nor hostility between police officers and journalists,” Sturm emphasizes.

The series of letter bombs in Germany and Linz were to be followed by two more: In the fourth, in Lower Austria in October 1995, refugee helper Maria Loley in Poysdorf and the then Syrian community doctor of Stronsdorf were injured. . A South Korean doctor couple narrowly escaped a letter bomb attack in Mistelbach. Fortunately, the fifth series, held in December just six days before the National Council elections, did not cause any injuries. The recipients were the UNHCR High Commissioner for Refugees, an Indian family living in Vienna, a dating agency with a mailbox in Güns (Hungary) and Angela Resetarits, mother of cabaret artist Lukas, singer Willi (“Ostbahn Kurti”). ) and ORF editor Peter Resetarits.

Finally, on December 9, 1996, another letter bomb exploded. The letter was sent to the writer Lotte Ingrisch, the stepmother of the then Minister of Internal Affairs Caspar Einem (SPÖ).

On 1 October 1997 – Storm: “1,398 days later” – two women in the town of Gralla near Leibnitz in Southern Styria felt that they were being persecuted and notified the gendarmerie. Authorities stopped measurement technician Franz Fuchs, then 48, and asked him to get out of the car. He did so, but he had an unidentified object in his hand, an explosive device, and it exploded immediately afterwards. Fuchs lost an arm and both hands. The gendarmerie was also injured, one seriously. When investigators searched the house where the technician lived with his mother, they found more explosives and a workshop in the back. His mother was not allowed in.

Fuchs was sentenced to life imprisonment in March 1999. He stayed away from the hearing. When he was taken into the living room, he began screaming and uttering hateful tirades. The judge also brought the information about the decision to the defendant in the cell. In February 2000, Fuchs committed suicide in his cell.

Sturm describes the loner as a “highly intelligent failure”: “He took out his frustration on society.” The debate over whether Fuchs acted alone has never fully abated. There are still those who are not convinced that he was the sole perpetrator of the incident. Sturm is not one of them, and he justifies this with the South Styrian personality: “For me, he was just him. He was a genius, he didn’t share.” Footnote: “In this case you will never have everything clear.”

Robert Sturm became aware of the case. And he’s glad the letter bomb incident happened in the 1990s and not today: “Thank God there was no social media back then. That would have destroyed us. So we ‘only’ got 10,000 tips.”

(by Gunther Lichtenhofer/APA).


Source: Vienna


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