TERRORISM, PIRACY AND KIDNAPPING AND JAPAN
Japan sent vessels like this
to combat Somalian pirates In a poll in December 2003, 63 percent of Japanese said they feared terrorists would attack Japan and 80 percent said the chance of a terrorist attack was increasing.
In September 2008, a former Japanese soldier fired an explosive device into the Imperial Palace but no one was hurt. The devise---a gunpowder filled fire extinguisher---was fired from a road in Chiyoda Ward and was made with readily available material such as a fertilizer and built using information taken from a video-sharing Web site.
The Aum cult Tokyo subway sarin attack remains the worst terrorist attack on Japanese soil. The sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 killed 12 people. A total of 189 former senior members of the cult and others were indicted, and all except one were found guilty. A total of 13 cult members were sentenced to death for involvement in either the sarin gas attacks in Matsumoto or on the Tokyo subway system, or the murder of the Sakamoto family. See the Aum Shinrikyo Cult, the Tokyos Subway Sarin Gas Attack and Trial of Aum Shinrikyo Cult Members.
Twenty-four Japanese were killed in September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Websites and Resources
Good Websites and Sources: Japan’s Counter-Terrorism Assistance mofa.go.jp ; Japan and the Global War on Terrorism journal.unair.ac.id ; Terrorists, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Japan gaikoforum.com/53-Mizukoshi.pdf ; Center for Defense Information on the Japanese Red Army cdi.org/friendlyversion/printversion ; Wikipedia article on the Japanese Red Army Wikipedia
Links in this Website: JAPANESE MILITARY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; CHANGING JAPANESE MILITARY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; AMERICAN MILITARY IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPAN AND THE WORLD Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TERRORISM, PIRACY AND KIDNAPPING AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPAN, IRAQ, IRAN AND AFRICA Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SOUTH KOREA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; NORTH KOREA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; CHINA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; RUSSIA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; UNITED STATES AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; AUM SHINROKYO CULT AND THE TOKYO SUBWAY SARIN GAS ATTACK Factsanddetails.com/Japan
Good Websites and Sources on Foreign Affairs: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan mofa.go.jp and mofa.go.jp ; Paper on Development of Japanese International Relations allacademic.com ; Wikipedia article on Foreign Policy of Japan Wikipedia ; Foreign Policy Magazine on the New Hatoyama Government foreignpolicy.com ; Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies japanesestudies.org ; The World and Japan Database Project ioc.u-tokyo.ac.jp ;Japan in the World (last updated in 2003) iwanami.co.jp/jpworld ; Book: Japan’s International Relations: Politics, Economics and Security amazon.ca/Japans-International-Relations
Think Tanks and Research Groups: Japan Policy Research Institute jpri.org ; The Japan Forum on International Relations jfir.or.jp/e ; Japan Watch, Commentary on Political and Economic Issues jipr.org ; Japanese Institute of Global Communications glocom.org ; Japan Analysis and Research Through Internet Information dandoweb.com ; Documents Related to Postwar Politics and International Relations ioc.u-tokyo.ac.jp
Japanese Red Army
In the 1970s, the Japanese Red Army (JRA) was one of the world's most notorious terrorist groups. Initially a splinter group of the extreme left-wing United Red Army, the group was founded by Fusako Shigenobu in 1969 and was made up of radicals from student groups who protested the presence of U.S. military bases in Japan. The goal of the group was to overthrow the Japanese government, eliminate the monarchy and foment world revolution.
In the early 1970s, the Red Army broke into factions. Shigenobu moved her faction to war-torn Lebanon and set up a commune, which allied itself with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and for fun held nightly self-criticism sessions. Pursued by Israeli agents they were constantly on the run. Even so Shigenobu had a daughter, with a Palestinian terrorist, who she raised with the help of other Red Army members and Arab supporters.
Japanese Red Army Activities and North Korea
In 1970, nine Japanese Red Army member hijacked a Japan Airlines domestic flight, with 138 people on board, to North Korea. During this hijacking the plane landed at Seoul, where a North Korean flag was raised in attempt to trick the hijackers into thinking the plane had landed in Pyongyang. The trick didn't work. The hijackers became suspicious after U.S. airliners were spotted at the airport. The passengers and crew were released in Seoul. The plane continued on to Pyongyang, where the nine defected.
The hijackers were welcomed by Kim Il Sung as heroes and initially were feted to privileges like housing in a special revolution village and chauffeured Mercedes-Benz cars.. The hijackers married Japanese women secretly brought into the country. Over time their privileges were taken away and they lived under strict rules imposed by North Korea. Many become idle and bored.
Four of the Yodo hijackers remain in North Korea and will probably stay there. The Japanese government wants to talk to them because they could help answer some unanswered question about the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea. Of the 20 children born to Yodo hijackers all are living in Japan. All the hijacker wives live in Japan with the exception of two that remain in North Korea.
Japanese Red Army Activities in Japan
The Red Army executed 14 people in Japan between August 1971 and February 1972 and had shootouts with Japanese police. There were also believed to have had a hand in a 1974 bombing of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the central Tokyo business district that killed eight people and injured nearly 400 (this was last major terrorist incident in Japan before the Aum Shinrokyo poison gas subway attack in 1995).
The Asama Sanso incident was the name given to 10-day stand-off in March 1972 between five Red Army members and police at the Asama Sanso mountain resort in Karuizawamachi, Nagano Prefecture.
The incident began when the Red Army members quietly entered the lodge and took the wife of the lodgekeeper hostage. Police tracked the terrorists to the lodge following their footprints in the snow. A shoot-out took place when the terrorists were cornered by police. During the standoff 1,000 police took up positions around the lodge and sprayed the lodge with water cannons to to keep the terrorists from firing. The incident ended when the police stormed the lodge and rescued the hostage after smashing the walls with a wrecking ball. Two police and one member of the public died. .
Japanese Red Army Activities in Europe and the Middle East
On May 30, 1972, three members of the JRA grabbed two suitcases from a conveyor belt in the passenger lounge of the Tel Aviv airport, pulled out submachine guns and grenades and opened fire into a crowd, killing 24 civilians, including 16 Puerto Ricans on a religious pilgrimage, and wounded 76. All of the terrorist were killed except for one, Kozo Okamoto, who was captured and imprisoned by Israeli authorities (See Below).
The Red Army was also involved in seizures at the French embassy in the Hague in 1974 and the Swedish and U.S. embassies in Kuala Lumpur in 1975 as part of efforts to win the release of jailed members.
The greatest hijacking ransom ($6 million) was paid by the Japanese government to the hijackers of a JAL flight with 38 hostages at Dacca Airport in Bangladesh in October 1977. The Red Army hijacked Paris-bound Japan Airlines over India. The government gave into the demands of the hijackers to win the release of the 156 passengers and get back the plane. The Prime Minister said, “Human life is weightier than the earth.” Six Red Army members were released. In 1973, JAL flight was redirected to Libya and the plane was blown up after the passengers were freed.
The Red Army is believed to have worked with other international revolutionary groups such as the Red Brigade in Italy and the Baade-Meinhof Gang in Germany. In April 1988, the Red Army detonated a bomb in Naples as part of an anti-American campaign but was pretty quiet after that. Since the end of the Cold War the group has had difficulty securing funds.
Arrest of Japanese Red Army Terrorists
Even though the Red Army had all but disappeared as a terrorist group Japanese law enforcement officials continued to hunt down the members that remained at large. In the early 1990s, three were apprehended in Romania, Peru and Nepal and another member was arrested in Bolivia.
Yoshima Tanaka, the man who hijacked the Japan Airlines flight in 1970, was arrested at the border of Vietnam and Cambodia in 1996 while traveling with a North Korean passport and was arrested for carrying large amounts of counterfeit $100 bills. He was deported to Thailand and then Japan. Another member died in Pyongyang and another was arrested in in 1988 after secretly trying to enter to Japan, where he was given a five-year prison sentence.
Red Army members Masai Adachi, Haruo Wako, Kazuo Tohira and Mariko Yamamoto were sent to Japan from Lebanon via Jordan in May 2000 as part of deal worked out between the Japanese, Jordanian and Lebanese governments. A fifth member Kozo Okamoto, who was involved in the Tel Aviv airport massacre, was given asylum in Lebanon as a reward for his anti-Israeli activities. He spent 13 years in Israeli prisons, where he was reportedly tortured. He was released in 1985 as part of a prisoner exchange deal.
The Japanese Red Army leader Fusako Shigenobu was arrested in Osaka in November 2000. She was found with several fake passports that indicated she had been traveling regularly between Japan, China and the Middle East. Shigenobu was charged with terrorist crimes associated with the seizure of the French Embassy in the Hague and the use of false passports. She pleaded innocent to the charges of terrorism and said she was not involved in the embassy seizure. Many believe Shigenobu was the mastermind of the Tel Aviv attack.
In February 2006, Shigenobu was given a 20 year prison sentence for her role in the seizure of the French Embassy in the Hague in 1974 and other incidents. Her daughter now lives in Osaka and visits her mother in prison regularly.
A few Red Army members are still at large and believed to be living in North Korea or somewhere in the Middle East.
Combating Terrorism in Japan
After the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Japan passed the Antiterrorism Law that allowed the government to dispatch SDF personal overseas to provide support in military campaigns against terrorism.
Firefighters receive training for terrorist-related disasters. The Japanese government and the Tokyo government Japan periodically conduct large-scale anti-terror exercises. Over 2,000 people, including local government officials, the military and the police, participated in an exercise in the early 2000s that simulated the detonation of chemical weapon at the prefectural Budokan
Since November 2007, foreigners 16 and over entering Japan have been required to have their fingerprints and mug shots taken at immigration---usually at the airport---before they can officially enter the country. The system---like a similar system in the United States “is intended to prevent terrorists from entering the country. Some foreigners have complained that the system is an invasion of privacy. If a foreigner refuses to go through the procedure he can be deported.
An Iranian employee of a nuclear research firm in Iran was allowed to study nuclear technologies used in the preprocessing of spent fuel rods---which has applications to making nuclear weapons---at Tohuku University even though the government had made a watch list to prevent such technologies from ending up in the hands of Iranian or North Koreans.
Al-Qaida in Japan
In March 2004, Japan was named as target for a possible terrorist by an Al-Qaida-linked group. Japan was singled out because of its close ties with the United States. The group, the Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri, claimed responsibility of the bombings of the trains in Madrid. Also singled out were Italy, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Australia.
Al-Qaida members had a plan to enter Japan in 2002 and carry out an attack. Six members of the terrorist group had obtained visas and were ready to come. The plan fell through when a Japanese Muslim who was going to sponsor them backed out. Their plan was to set up a cell and look for targets to attack.
Khalid Shaik Mohammed---the No. 3 man in Al-Qaida and one of the masterminds of the September 11 attack the bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, operated rock drills for a construction company in Japan and is said to have applied this knowledge to digging bunker-like caves for Al-Qaida members in Afghanistan. Khalid said Al-Qaida had a plan to attack the U.S. embassy in Japan.
Mohammed Khalid Salim entered Japan in 1996 and bought more than 1,000 walkie talkies, Japanese automobiles, personal computers and electronic equipment. Frenchman Lionel Dumont---a senior member of a group linked with Al-Qaida---entered Japan six times in four years between 1999 and 2003.
Japanese Ships Targeted by Terrorists and Pirates
More than 80 percent of the crude oil bound for Japan passes through the Strait of Hormuz. In 2009, 1,400 oil tankers operated by Japanese shipping lines sailed through the strait.
In August 2010, a 160,292-ton Japanese tanker, M. Star, was damaged by an explosion while traveling through Straits of Hormuz. Damage to the hull appeared to have been caused by explosives from a small ship that passed near the tankers. Terrorists or separatist were suspected. An Al-Qaida-linked group---Abdullah Azzam Brigades---claimed credit for the attack, saying explosives were detonated by a suicide bomber damaged the hull. In November 2010, the U.S. government confirmed that the group was behind the attack. Experts seem to think a Japanese tanker was not targeted intentionally; just any old tanker would do.
In March 2010 three suspected pirates, captured by the U.S. Navy, who were involved in thwarted attack of a Japanese oil tanker---the 57,462-ton Guanabara---in the Indian Ocean 607 kilometers southwest of Oman were turned over to the Japanese and put on trial in a Tokyo District court. The pirates boarded the ship from a small boat but were overpowered by a special unit dispatched from a U.S. Destroyer in the area that saw the tanker’s distress signal.
In October 2010 Somalia pirates captured a Japanese-operated freighter---the 14,162-ton Izumi---in waters off of Kenya. In March 2011 the pirates let the ship go, it seems after a ransom was paid.
Combating Piracy and Japan
In March 2009 two Japanese destroyers---with a 400-man crew, including a special unit trained to board ships---and helicopters were sent the Gulf of Aden on a four month mission to aid in the fight against pirates from Somalia. Their primary mission was guarding ships with ties to Japan as they navigated a 1,000-kilometer-long stretch of sea off the coast of Yemen and helping foreign ships that are in trouble.
Sending the ships was matter of debate. According to some certain aspects of the mission violated the Peace Constitution. A bill had to be passed by the Diet before the ships were allowed to go. Under the terms of bill the ships were only allowed to use their weapons in self defense if attacked by pirate boats. One survey in Japan found that 60 percent of Japanese supported the anti-piracy mission
The ships protected by the Japanese traveled in convoys watched over by the destroyers and had to apply in advance to be protected . Ships that needed emergency help but had not received permission in advance to be protected had to go thorough a bureaucratic process to get approval before the destroyers could help them.
An antipiracy law passed in the Diet in June 2009 authorized Japanese vessels to protects ships with no connection to Japan. As part of the SDF's antipiracy activities, two SDF vessels have been providing escorts to commercial ships and P-3C airplanes have conducted patrols since 2009. The number of piracy incidents off Somalia totaled a record-high 219 in 2010. As of July 164 incidents had been reported in 2011. However, ships escorted by the SDF have not been involved in any incidents.
Japan’s Self-Defense Forces officially opened its base in Djibouti in July 2011 to boost Japan's contribution to fighting piracy in waters off Somalia. Japan’s first full-fledged overseas SDF base, it is located north of Djibouti-Ambouli Airport and has a command headquarters, accommodation for SDF personnel, a dining hall, gym and bath house and a maintenance hangar for P-3C patrol aircraft. It cost about $60 million to build. The government hopes the base will play a key role in international cooperation for peace in the Middle East and Africa. The SDF will rotate personnel stationed in Djibouti every three to four months. At the Djibouti base there are now 180 personnel, including people in charge of security, cooking and other duties.
APEC Security Leak and Homemade Bombs
Security efforts by Japanese police were called before the APEC summit meeting in Yokohama in November 2010 when the summit’s security plan was leaked on the Internet. The document that was leaked contained details on how security at the meeting was to be carried out as well as the names and pictures police involved in terrorism investigations and the names of Muslim residents in Japan. The document was produced by Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and is thought to have been leaked through the use of file-sharing software. Later the entire document was released as a 469-page book by a Japanese publisher under the title Leaked Police Terrorism Info: All Data .
In November 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Recent revelations that several citizens have made bombs using information from the Internet and commercially available chemicals have left police on edge ahead of the APEC meeting in Yokohama. Although there is no evidence that these handmade explosives were made to be used in a terrorist attack on the summit meeting, one bombmaker detonated a device in an experiment.” [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 10, 2010]
In September 2011, an air traffic controller at Haneda Airport posted on his blog images of Air Force One's flight plan for U.S. President Barack Obama's visit the previous November. Later it was revealed the Japanese government the flight plans for U.S. presidential aircraft Air Force One and U.S. military jets have not been handled as top secret.
“The MPD has stepped up cyberpatrols since the summer and asked Internet service providers to delete information about bombmaking from their Web sites. It has asked chemicals stores to notify them of any suspicious customers. In October, the MPD confiscated a large quantity of chemicals that can be used to make a bomb, including black powder and sulfur, from the home of a 27-year-old man in Higashi-Matsuyama, Saitama Prefecture. [Ibid]
“The man, who was arrested on suspicion of violating an explosives control law, is believed to have tried to produce a highly destructive explosive like the one used in the coordinated terrorist attacks on London's public transport system in July 2005. The police also found a notebook with clippings on making bombs at his home. An employee of a chemicals store where the man bought the substances seemed stunned by his customer's actions. "I knew he bought very rare chemicals, but I never dreamed he was going to make a bomb," the employee was quoted by police as saying. The suspect reportedly told the MPD that he wanted to take revenge on classmates who had bullied him at primary and middle school.” [Ibid]
In September, the MPD sent papers to prosecutors on a 45-year-old man in Adachi Ward, Tokyo, on the same charge. He allegedly attempted to make a highly destructive bomb based on information he had found on the Internet. The man reportedly told the police he intended to use the bomb to blow himself up because he had been snubbed by a woman he had fallen in love with. As of October, about 1,800 stores in Tokyo sold chemicals that can be used to make bombs, while 26 online shops also sell these materials, according to the MPD. The wealth of information on bomb production on the Internet has made it possible for ordinary citizens to build explosives. The ease with which anyone can get access to the information and the materials necessary to make a bomb has given police a major headache. "Explosives made this way could be used for terrorism at any time," a senior MPD official said. [Ibid]
Overseas Kidnaping of Japanese
The Japanese have a reputation of providing poor security for their overseas executives, who are often the target for abductions, and then giving in to the kidnappers demands and paying huge ransoms.
One Japanese executive was returned in Mexico in August 1996 after a $2 million ransom was paid. Another was found dead in 1992 after a $750,000 was paid in Panama.
In mid-August of 1999, Islamic militant entered Kyrzgzstan from Tajikistan and kidnaped 120 people and captured five villages in the Pamir mountains in the Batken region around Osh. Most of the hostages were soon released but four Japanese mining engineers and two other men were held hostage. The four Japanese had been by the Japan International Cooperative Agency. During the hostage ordeal the Kyrgyz government launched air strikes and a firefight broke out between the militants holding the hostage and Kyrgyz troops. The Japanese were reportedly freed after a $2 million to $6 million ransom was paid.
In August 2008, 31-year-old Japanese NGO worker Kazuya Ito was kidnapped and killed in Afghanistan. Kato was an agricultural specialist with a Fukuoka-based NGO Peshawar-kai, helping villagers build an irrigation system.. He was shot three times in the leg and died from blood loss due to the severing of an artery in his thigh by a bullet.
Japanese Killed and Kidnaped in Iraq
In November 2003, two Japanese diplomats and their Iraqi drivers were shot to death in Iraq in an drive-by-shooting-style ambush while in their vehicle on a highway outside Tikrit, Saddam Hussain’s former hometown. The two men---Japanese embassy employees 45-year-old Katsuhiko Oku and 30-year-old Masamori Inoue--- were the first Japanese deaths in Iraq after the American invasion there in March 2003. It was nit clear whether they were targeted because they were Japanese. Their deaths received quite a lot of attention in Japan.
In May 2003, freelance journalists Shinsuke Hashida and Kotaro Ogawa were killed when gunmen opened fore on their vehicle south of Baghdad. The were on their way to the Japanese camp at Samawah. They were an uncle and nephew team.
In April, 2004 three Japanese civilians---freelance photojournalist Soichiro Koriyama, freelance writer Noriaki Imai and volunteer aid worker Nahoko Takato---were abducted and held in the Falluja area. In a videotape their kidnapers said the three Japanese would be burned alive unless Japan withdrew it troops from Iraq. All three were released unharmed a week or so after the abduction with the help of Sunni clerics. The Japanese government said it didn’t pay any ransom. About the same time they were released two other Japanese---freelance journalist Junpei Yasuda and NGG worker Nobutaka Watanabe---were kidnaped. They were released a couple days later, and were criticized for reading anti-American messages given them by their captors.
In May 2005, Akihiko Saito---a former Japanese soldier working as a contractor for a British security firm on a U.S. base---was killed in Iraq in ambush by the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, an Islamic militant group. A website by the Islamic Group showed a video image of man thought to be Saito lying on the ground, bleeding from his head. It was not clearly whether he died in the ambush or died later. Ansar al-Sunnah originally said that it had captured Saito.
Killing of Japanese Backpacker in Iraq
In October 2004, a 24-year-old Japanese backpacker named Shosei Koda was kidnaped and beheaded by a group associated with the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s insurgents. A video was released in which the group threatened to behead Koda unless Japanese forces started withdrawing within 24 hours. Against strong protests by Japanese and Jordanian authorities, Koda took a bus from Amman Jordan to Baghdad. He was refused admission to mid -price hotels, which were not taking foreigners out of fear of attacks, and couldn’t afford a guarded high-priced hotel. He was last seen getting into a car at the Baghdad bus station.
Koda’s headless body was found wrapped in an American flag in Baghdad. The Japanese public didn’t have so much sympathy for Koda who was characterized as a danger seeker. A video showed him being shoved on the American flag and beheaded. The video was later shown at a Tokyo rock concert.
The Al-Qaida-linked Iraqi man that participated in the killing of Koda was later captured. He told AFP: “Our group initially planned to release the Japanese after getting a ransom, but we then had a high-level order that we should demand Japanese forces pull out...The Japanese looked dejected and sad....He talked to us in a language we didn’t understand, but the look on his face told me he was begging for his life...I tried to cut his throat but couldn’t do it to the end--- so another member completed the killing. “The brand-new knife was made in Japan. I couldn’t help doing it as I would’ve been killed instead if I didn’t.” The Iraqi man was executed.
Image Sources: Defence Talk.com
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated October 2011