The Red Army Faction (German: Rote Armee Fraktion), shortened to RAF and in its early stages commonly known as Baader-Meinhof Group, was one of post–World War II Germany's most violent and prominent left-wing terror groups. The RAF described itself as a communist and anti-imperialist "urban guerrilla" group engaged in armed resistance against what they deemed to be a fascist state. The RAF was founded in 1970 by Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Horst Mahler, and Ulrike Meinhof.
The Red Army Faction existed from 1970 to 1998, committing numerous operations, especially in the autumn of 1977, which led to a national crisis that became known as "German Autumn". It was held responsible for thirty-four deaths, including many secondary targets, such as chauffeurs and bodyguards, and many injuries in its almost thirty years of activity. Although more well-known, the RAF conducted fewer attacks than the Revolutionary Cells (RZ), which is held responsible for 296 bomb attacks, arson and other attacks between 1973 and 1995.
The group always called itself the "Rote Armee Fraktion". The terms "Baader-Meinhof Gang" and "Baader-Meinhof Group" or just "Baader-Meinhof" are sometimes used as nicknames for the organization. RAF never used these terms for themselves, but the German media used them to avoid legitimizing the movement as an actual political organisation. Although Meinhof was not considered to be a leader of the RAF at any time, her involvement in Baader's escape from jail in 1970 and her well-known status as a German journalist led to her name becoming attached to it. There were three successive incarnations of the organization, the "first generation" which consisted of Baader and his associates, the "second generation" RAF, which operated in the mid to late 1970s after several former members of the Socialist Patients' Collective joined, and the "third generation" RAF, which existed in the 1980s and 1990s.
On 20 April 1998, an eight-page typewritten letter in German was faxed to the Reuters news agency, signed "RAF" with the machine-gun red star, declaring that the group had dissolved.