Japanese Red Army

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More than three decades ago, the Japanese Red Army was among the most dreaded terrorist organizations. The reason for this was that the Japanese Red Army believed in the use of violence towards achieving their objectives, and they were responsible for several terrorist acts.

Summary of the Japanese Red Army

The Japanese Red Army Faction was due to the left-leaning beliefs caused by the mounting anti-American feelings that surfaced during the Vietnamese war in the late 1960’s. The Palestinian cause drew their attention. To sustain the movement the Japanese Red Army involved itself in a number of crimes in Japan. During 1970-1971 internal fighting erupted within the Japanese Red Army Faction, leading to a crackdown on them by the Japanese police authorities. Fusaka Shigenobu, who was in Lebanon to liaison with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) helped bring over several of these fugitive members, and founded the Japanese Red Army.

Under her leadership the Japanese Red Army was to become one of the most dreaded terrorist organizations, though they lacked support in Japan. The reason for the fear caused by the Japanese Red Army, was because they used violence more as an end in itself, than in achievement of any of their left-leaning beliefs.

For two decades between the years 1971-1991, the Japanese Red Army was involved in seventeen terrorist acts that drew the attention of the world. The most infamous of these terrorist acts was the murder of twenty-six people at Lod Airport in Israel on May 30, 1972. This attack was carried out by the Japanese Red Army on behalf of their PFLP friends, and consisted of a three-man unit for the execution of this act of terrorism. Several acts of terrorism and taking of hostages were conducted by the Japanese Red Army either against American or Israeli interests, or for the release of their members. One of the features of the Japanese Red Army was the involvement of the use of small arms in their actions, and the contact with the victims. This may have been a reflection of the Japanese culture in their terrorist activities.

The country from whom the Japanese Red Army received the maximum patronage was Libya. The demise of communism, the loss of relevance of the PFLP to the Palestine Resistance Movement, and the Libya’s withdrawal of support caused the Japanese Red Army to gradually become irrelevant. Frustration was to lead to the loss of leadership (Anderson & Sloan, 1995).

It is reported that frustration caused the return of Fusako Shigenobu, the founder of the Japanese Red Army, to Japan. She was arrested in Osaka, Japan in 2000. In 2006 she was convicted of kidnapping and attempted murder, as a result of her involvement in attack on the French Embassy in The Hague. She was sentenced to undergo twenty-six years in prison. With Fusako Shigenobu in prison, many believe that the final chapter of the Japanese Red Army has been written (Japanese Red Army Leader jailed).


The Japanese Red Army demonstrates that terrorist groups can evolve on the basis of ideology, but end up committing violent acts just for the love of violence. Such terrorist groups lose their importance, if there is no patronage.

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  1. Anderson, S. & Sloan, S. (1995). HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF TERRORISM. London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.
  2. Japanese Red Army Leader jailed. (2006). Retrieved March 27, 2007, from BBC NEWS Web site: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4742028.stm
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