Japan’s police renew hunt for militants wanted since 1970s

Tokyo, Feb 15:Tokyo police on Monday stepped up the hunt for members of the Japanese Red Army wanted for their alleged role in attacks in the 1970s and 1980s, releasing a video with images of the aging militants that warned the “case” was not over yet.
The video follows on the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Asama Sanso hostage crisis at a mountain lodge in central Japan, where two police officers were killed in a shootout.
“Japanese Red Army members are still on the run and they may live somewhere near you,” the video warns, adding the “case is not over yet.”
The video, produced by the police’s public security department, was released on social media and is playing on big-screen billboards in downtown Tokyo. Authorities have also put up posters in train stations and other public locations. In addition to the wanted photos depicting the militants when they were younger, police added mock-ups of how they likely appear aged in their 70s.
The Japanese Red Army, a violent ultra-leftist group that had links with Palestinian militants, was formed in 1971 and took responsibility for several international attacks, including the takeover of the U.S. Consulate in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1975. The group is also suspected in the 1972 machine-gun and grenade assault on the international airport outside Tel Aviv, Israel.
The campaign to identify the militants comes just months ahead of the scheduled release in late May of the group’s jailed leader, Fusako Shigenobu, 76, who was given a 20-year sentence for masterminding the 1974 seizure of the French Embassy in the Hague, the Netherlands. In 2000, she was arrested in Osaka where she had been in hiding.
The following year, Shigenobu declared the dissolution of the Japanese Red Army, but security officials suspect she is still linked to outlawed foreign groups.
Tokyo police say they are seeking tips from the public about the wanted partisans, who they say might have returned to Japan and be hiding in the country.
Among the seven individuals is Kunio Bando, 75, who was arrested following the Asama Sanso siege. He was later released and fled to Algeria after the 1977 hijacking of a Japan Airlines flight that was taken hostage to win the release of fellow militants in Japanese jails.
Kozo Okamoto, 74, is wanted for his alleged role in the 1972 attack at the airport in Israel that killed about 100 people. (Agencies)