Japanese Red Army

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The Japanese Red Army was a small New Left terrorist group and an offshoot of the Communist League. Initially founded in the 1960s by Takaya Shiomi and Fusako Shigenobu, and advocated on 1969 the violent overthrow of Japan's monarchy and instigate worldwide revolution via terrorism. However, the first iteration was shut down before it could begin by the local authorities, with several of them being arrested, including Shiomi, who was placed in jail in 1970. Shigenobu escaped, and eventually managed to merge with Maoists to form the United Red Army in 1971. Soon afterward, it participated in the Asama-Sanso incident, where they purged 12 of its members on a training camp at Mount Haruna before engaging in a week long siege involving hundreds of police. At some point later on, Shigenobu left Japan with 40 JRA members. The JRA's most infamous action afterwards was the Lod Airport massacre in Israel on May 30, 1972, where three members of the JRA, while allied with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-External Operations, proceeded to fire machine guns at the Lod Airport, resulting in 26 fatalities (including two of their own) as well 79 wounded, including one of their own. Aside from this, the JRA was also responsible for various kidnappings, attacks, and hijackings. It was eventually disbanded in 2001 after Shigenobu's arrest and sentencing to 20 years in prison a year before, although the National Police Agency of Japan indicated that it was replaced with the Movement Rentai.

Activities done by the JRA during the 1970s and 1980s include:

  • March 31, 1970: nine members of the JRA's predecessor, the Red Army Faction (whose leaders had been a part of the Communist League before they were thrown out, not to be confused with the German Marxist terrorist group of the same name), conducted Japan's most infamous hijacking, that of Japan Airlines Flight 351, which was a domestic Japan Airlines Boeing 727 carrying 129 people at Tokyo International Airport. Wielding katanas and a bomb, the JRA terrorists forced the crew to fly the airliner to Fukuoka and later Gimpo Airport in Seoul, where all the passengers were freed. The aircraft then flew to North Korea, where the hijackers abandoned it and the crewmembers were released. Of those involved in the hijacking, Tanaka was the only one to be convicted. Three of Tanaka's alleged accomplices later died in North Korea and five remain there. According to Japan's National Police Agency, another accomplice may also have died in North Korea.[1]
  • May 30, 1972: the Lod Airport massacre; a gun- and grenade attack at Israel's Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, now Ben Gurion International Airport, killed 26 people (two of which included the attackers); about 80 others were wounded, including Kozo Okamoto, one of the JRA members responsible for the attack.[2] One of the three attackers then committed suicide with a grenade, another was shot in the crossfire. The only surviving attacker was Kōzō Okamoto. Many of the victims were Christian pilgrims.[3]
  • July 1973: Red Army members led the hijacking of Japan Air Lines Flight 404 over the Netherlands. The passengers and crew were then released in Libya, where the hijackers blew up the aircraft.
  • January 1974: the Laju incident; the JRA attacked a Shell facility in Singapore and took five hostages; simultaneously, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine seized the Japanese embassy in Kuwait. The hostages were exchanged for a ransom and safe passage to South Yemen.
  • September 13, 1974: the French Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands was stormed. The ambassador and ten other people were taken hostage and a Dutch policewoman, Joke Remmerswaal, was shot in the back, puncturing a lung. After lengthy negotiations, the hostages were freed in exchange for the release of a jailed Red Army member (Yatsuka Furuya), $300,000 and the use of an aircraft. The hostage-takers flew first to Aden, South Yemen, where they were not accepted and then to Syria. Syria did not consider hostage-taking for money revolutionary, and forced them to give up their ransom.[4]
  • August 1975: the Red Army took more than 50 hostages at the American Insurance Associates building housing several embassies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The hostages included the US consul Robert C. Stebbins and the Swedish chargé d'affaires Fredrik Bergenstråhle. The gunmen won the release of five imprisoned comrades and flew with them to Libya.
  • August 11, 1976: in Istanbul, Turkey, four people were killed and twenty wounded by PFLP and Japanese Red Army terrorists in an attack at Istanbul Atatürk airport.[5]
  • September 1977: The Red Army hijacked Japan Airlines Flight 472 over India and forced it to land in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Japanese Government freed six imprisoned members of the group and allegedly paid a $6M ransom.
  • December 1977: a suspected lone member of the Red Army hijacked Malaysian Airline System Flight 653.[6] Ironically, the flight was carrying the Cuban ambassador to Tokyo, Mario Garcia. The Boeing 737 crashed killing all on board.
  • May 1986: the Red Army fired mortar rounds at the embassies of Japan, Canada and the United States in Jakarta, Indonesia.[7]
  • June 1987: a similar attack was launched on the British and United States embassies in Rome, Italy.[8]
  • April 1988: Red Army members bombed the US military recreational (USO) club in Naples, Italy, killing five.[8]
    • In the same month, JRA operative Yū Kikumura was arrested with explosives on the New Jersey Turnpike highway, apparently to coincide with the USO bombing. He was convicted of these charges and served time in a United States prison until his release in April 2007. Upon his return to Japan he was immediately arrested on suspicion of using fraudulent travel documents.

Notes and references

  1. Movements of the Japanese Red Army and the "Yodo-go" Group". National Police Agency, Japan. 2003. Archived from the original on March 23, 2011. https://web.archive.org/web/20110323030221/http://www.npa.go.jp/keibi/kokutero1/english/pdf/sec03.pdf. Retrieved March 15, 2007. 
  2. "In what became known as the Lod Airport Massacre three members of the terrorist group, Japanese Red Army, arrived at the airport aboard Air France Flight 132 from Rome. Once inside the airport they grabbed automatic firearms from their carry-on cases and fired at airport staff and visitors. In the end, 26 people died and 80 people were injured." CBC News, The Fifth Estate, "Fasten Your Seatbelts: Ben Gurion Airport in Israel", 2007. Retrieved June 2, 2008.
  3. (2002) Japan's Suicide Gods. London: Pearson Education. ISBN 9780582772328. 
  4. Blood and Rage, The Story of the Japanese Red Army.
  5. 1967-1993: Major Terror Attacks. GxMSDev. Retrieved on May 23, 2015.
  6. CNN - Ethiopia mourns crash victims - Nov. 25, 1996.
  7. "Red Army's reign of terror", November 8, 2000. Retrieved on October 26, 2017. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Red Army's reign of terror", BBC News, 8 November 2000. Retrieved on 30 May 2017.