Flaming ATMs New Militant Group Torches Cash Machines in Frankfurt

A previously unknown militant group claims to be behind a series of arson attacks on banks in Frankfurt over the past two weeks. Police are still hunting for leads to the elusive group, while commentators are drawing links with Germany's notorious terrorist group the Red Army Faction.

Who is next? The militant Morning Light Movement has worried banks and confounded police.

Who is next? The militant Morning Light Movement has worried banks and confounded police.

Until two weeks ago no one had heard of the Bewegung Morgenlicht. But now, they have thrust themselves onto the police's radar with a number of attacks on banks in Frankfurt.

Two Saturdays ago, militants threw a petrol-soaked cloth into a Dresdner Bank foyer, setting fire to a cash machine. Just 24 hours later, a machine belonging to Deutsche Bank was torched in another part of the city. Total damages amounted to €110,000 ($165,000). No one was hurt in the attacks, but the fire department helped 10 people evacuate from the building above the Deutsche Bank blaze.

In an e-mail sent to a number of regional papers, a group calling itself Bewegung Morgentlicht (Dawn Movement) claimed responsibility. One mail said the first Frankfurt attack was carried out by the "Makeda Commando," supposedly part of the new group. It dubbed the attack "a small retrospective slap in the face for their swindle." Meanwhile, the group explained the second attack on Deutsche Bank as an attempt to spur on "a thorough reform of the economy."

Doomed Shares

The "swindle" referred to in the first e-mail is likely a reference to the practice of selling Lehmann Brothers securities, which became worthless overnight with the investment bank collapsed in September 2008. This week, Bewegung Morgenlicht issued a direct threat to the Frankfurter Sparkasse 1822 bank, specifically mentioning those who lost money due to the Lehmann bankruptcy.

In a letter sent to the tabloid Bild, the group warned that Sparkasse 1822 "is at the top of our to-do list." It said it was demanding compensation for those who had bought doomed Lehmann Brothers securities from the bank. It said the Frankfurt savings bank would become a target if it doesn't pay up by the start of December. The police are still hunting for leads to the presumed leftist organization.

The Financial Times Deutschland newspaper said the latest attacks appeared to be styled on the far-left Red Army Faction (RAF), a group which terrorized Germany during the 1970s and 80s. The paper pointed to similarities in the writing style, which avoided capital letters, and in the speed of their messages claiming responsibility.

Cuddly Group

In an Internet statement, however, Bewegung Morgenlicht played down comparisons with the group, which was responsible for a rash of murders, kidnappings and hijackings. "We are more of a cuddly group than a Red Army Faction," it wrote.

The arson attacks in Frankfurt follow a recent rise in left-wing crime in Berlin. A total of 190 cars have now been torched on the streets of the German capital this year alone. According to a government report into leftist violence, released on Wednesday, leftwing groups were, on average, charged with around twice as many criminal acts than their right-wing counterparts over the past six years. During the presentation of the report, Berlin's state Interior Minister Ehrhart Körting (SPD) accused politicians from the far-left Left Party of not being vocal enough in their criticism of criminality among leftist militants.

jas -- with wire reports


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