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A.K.A.: "The Austrian Unabomber"
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Four-year racist bombing spree - Letter and pipe bomb attacks
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: February 4, 1995
Date of arrest: October 1, 1997
Date of birth: December 12, 1949
Victims profile: Four Gypsies, or Roma
Method of murder: Improvised explosive device which was attached to a sign that read "Roma zurück nach Indien" ("Roma back to India.")
Location: Oberwart, Burgenland, Austria
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on March 10, 1999. Found hanged with the cable of his electric razor in his prison cell in Graz on February 26, 2000

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Known as the Austrian Unabomber, Franz Fuchs, an unemployed engineer, was convicted on four counts of murder on 10 March 1999, for a series of letter and pipe bomb attacks that left four people dead. He was also found guilty of more than a dozen cases of causing grievous bodily harm with bombs.

Fuchs, 49, was charged with planting a pipe bomb that killed four Gypsies, or Roma, on February. 4, 1995, at Oberwart in the eastern province of Burgenland, and 28 other bomb attacks that injured a dozen people. His four-year racist bombing spree started in 1993, and targeted mostly ethnic groups or people who supported their rights as refugee.

Most of his attacks were attributed to a mysterious right-wing group calling itself the Bajuvarian Liberation Army. Allegedly the terrorist group wants to reunite German-speaking peoples in Bavaria, the Alps and along the river Danube within borders that existed between the sixth and 12th centuries. Although his defense team argued that he had accomplices, prosecutors insisted Fuchs acted on his own.

Though Fuchs was absent from most of the trial because he repeatedly disrupted the court with nationalistic, anti-foreigner tirades, he did make it into the courtroom for a final statement. True to his past history, he yelled: "Long live the Bajuvarian Liberation Army" and "Long live the ethnic German group."

One of his victims was the former Vienna Mayor Helmut Zilk, who lost his left hand in one explosion. Fuchs was arrested after police were alerted by two women who telephoned to say they thought they were being stalked. A search of his home in Gralla, 130 miles south of Vienna, produced five pipe bombs and a booby-trapped device similar to one that killed the four gypsies in 1995.

According to authorities Fuchs set off an explosion in his car to kill himself when he realized he was getting arrested. The blast ripped through his car, tore off his hands and injured two police officers. Fuchs was described by court psychiatrists as intelligent but a fanatic bent on violence. He will serve his life sentence in a prison for the mentally dusturbed.


Franz Fuchs (December 12, 1949 in Gralla, Styria - February 26, 2000 in Graz) was a xenophobic Austrian terrorist. Between 1993 and 1997 he killed four people and injured 15, some of them seriously, using three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and five waves of 25 mailbombs in total.

Although Fuchs' mailbomb campaigns and his personality features (criminal psychologists later characterized him as a highly intelligent but socially inept loner) bear reflections on the American "Unabomber" Theodore Kaczynski, his motives were entirely different. His designated targets were people he either considered to be foreigners, or organisations and individuals "friendly to foreigners."

Mail bombs and IEDs

In December 1993 he started his first wave of mailbombs. Early victims were the priest August Janisch (because of his help for refugees), Silvana Meixner (ORF journalist for minorities), and the Mayor of Vienna, Helmut Zilk, who lost a large part of his left hand in the explosion. Other mailbombs which were discovered and neutralized were targeted at Helmut Schüller (humanitarian organisation Caritas), the Green politicians Madeleine Petrovic and Terezija Stoisits, Wolfgang Gombocz and Minister Johanna Dohnal.

While attempting to disarm an improvised explosive device found at a bilingual school in Carinthia, police officer Theo Kelz lost both his hands on August 24, 1994. (Kelz subsequently became the first Austrian to receive a hand transplant, and made an impressive recovery.)

Franz Fuchs claimed responsibility for his attacks in a letter to the foreign minister of Slovenia in September 1994, in the name of the "Salzburger Eidgenossenschaft - Bajuwarische Befreiungsarmee" (Bajuvarian Liberation Army). In a number of subsequent letters, he tried to give the impression of a larger organisation with different units. However, from the second wave of mailbombs in October 1994 not a single one went off.

On February 5, 1995, four Roma were killed in Oberwart with an improvised explosive device which was attached to a sign that read "Roma zurück nach Indien" ("Roma back to India.")

Between June 1995 and December 1995 he sent three more waves of mailbombs. Wave number three was targeted at TV host Arabella Kiesbauer, Dietrich Szameit (vice-mayor of Lübeck) and a dating agency. Kiesbauer and Szameit did not open their letters themselves and were not hurt. Wave number four was targeted at two medics and a refugee aid worker, Maria Loley. One medic from Syria and Maria Loley were injured; the other mailbomb, targeted at a South Korean medic was discovered and neutralized. Two mailbombs of wave number five detonated early in mailboxes, the remaining two were discovered and neutralized. This was the last incident before Fuchs was arrested.

Arrest, trial and death

At this stage Fuchs had obviously become highly paranoid. On October 1, 1997 near his residence in Gralla, he followed two women in a car whom he believed were observing him. When police attempted to question him on what they believed was a routine case of stalking, he produced another IED which he had kept in his car, and detonated it in his hands in front of the policemen.

His suicide attempt failed, but he lost both hands, and also injured a nearby police officer. Fuchs was arrested without giving further resistance and, after a trial which many in Austria felt had fallen short of making all attempts to uncover deep details, was sentenced to life in prison on March 10, 1999. Through his unruly behavior during the trial, Fuchs had repeatedly forced his removal from court proceedings.

On February 26, 2000, Fuchs was found hanged with the cable of his electric razor in his prison cell in Graz. The prison physician stated suicide.

Unresolved questions

Although the case was officially closed after Fuchs had been sentenced, and although the "Bajuvarian Liberation Army" was determined to never have existed as a terrorist organization in the meaning of the term, doubts remained whether Fuchs had actually committed his actions without any support or tacit knowledge from sympathizers.

A thorough search of the two rooms in his parents' house where Fuchs had lived revealed more IEDs but no traces of the equipment which he would have needed to produce and handle the unstable explosives (including mercury fulminate and nitroglycerol) contained in his IEDs.

Most of Fuchs' "confession letters" exhibited an aptitude at verbal expression for which he was not known. Some had referred to internal affairs in police procedures that were not accessible to the general public.

Even more doubts remain concerning Fuchs' death. How exactly a man without hands (Fuchs consistently refused having his advanced prostethic arms fitted to him) and under almost constant video surveillance could accomplish the manipulations required to convert an electric cable into a noose sufficiently robust for successful self-hanging was never properly explained.

Moreover, no prisoner (especially not an obvious borderline personality disorder case with a very recent record of suicidal behaviour) is supposed to be in possession of anything (including belts and even shoestrings) that could serve this purpose -- most certainly not an electric cable.



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