10 of the Deadliest and Strangest Terror Groups of the 1970s

Japanese Red Army, revolutionaries without a cause. Palestine Poster Project

Japanese Red Army, or the Anti-Imperialist International Brigade

Another of the signature Palestinian Liberation Organization factions was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, extremely militant and very violent indeed. One of the signature PFLP operation was the Lod Airport Massacre that occurred just outside Tel Aviv in Israel in the spring of 1972. Twenty-six people were killed, including two attackers, and a further seventy-nine injured. What was unique about this attack was that it was staged on behalf of the PFLP by an obscure Japanese terror group known as the ‘Japanese Red Army’.

The genius of this operation, of course, was the fact the Israeli intelligence and security, bristling after recent hijackings, were on the lookout for known members of Arab terror organizations and had no idea that a Japanese group was involved in the planning of the next big operation.

The Japanese Red Army was, in this regard, a somewhat opportunist terror group ready to take on anyone, anywhere and for any reason. The objectives of the organization are described by Wikipedia as the ‘overthrow the Japanese government and the monarchy, as well as to start a world revolution.’

The organization was founded in 1971 by Fusako Shigenobu, a deceptively mild-mannered, twenty-six-year-old female student with roots in an older Japanese version of the Red Army Faction known in Japan as ‘Sekigun-ha’. This organization, extremely shadowy, was destroyed by Japanese intelligence and security services early in 1971, forcing Fusako Shigenobu and a core of loyalists to flee Japan for Lebanon, and it was there that the Japanese Red Army was founded. The organization, such as it was, was Maoist and Communist in orientation, and for more than thirty years, Fusako Shigenobu remained in the Middle East in an ongoing alliance with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Apart from the Lod Airport operation, the Japanese Red Army carried out numerous independent hijackings and an attempted takeover of the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Most of the JRA’s activities were aimed either at Japanese interests or were in one way or another in support of the Palestinian liberation movement. Fusako Shigenobu remained at large, and generally tolerated in various locations in the Middle East, until, in 2000, four members were arrested in Lebanon and deported back to Japan, where they were tried and jailed. Fusako Shigenobu herself appeared back in Japan soon afterwards, but whether she was deported or returned of her own volition is not known. Either way, she was tried and handed down a twenty-year prison sentence, confirmed by the Japanese Supreme Court in 2010. She remains in prison, has written extensively, and is, in many circles, regarded as an authentic revolutionary, and as such she remains highly influential. The organization, of course, is now defunct, but at its height, it probably fielded forty full-time members and was funded largely through PLO channels.