February 18, 1996 – The Japanese Red Army And The Illusive Mr. Okamoto – Fighting Resumes In Zaire – The Landless Peasants Movement March On Brasilia –
February 18, 1996 – BBC World Service News – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
February 18, 1996 – The world as viewed by the BBC World Service. Beginning with news of the arrest of five members of the Japanese Red Army in Lebanon and their possible extradition back to Japan. The news caused many to ask “whatever happened to . . .” since the Japanese Red Army was more a group of random terrorists than an organized, functioning movement with a uniform ideology. So the news of this arrest came as a surprise. Of the five people who were arrest, the name Kozo Okamoto was the most recognizable. He was the only surviving member of a botched hijacking in 1972 at Lod Airport in Israel. Three members of the group attacked the airport, bent on killing as many Israelis as possible. On May 30, 1972, Kōzō Okamoto along with Yasuyuki Yasuda, and Tsuyoshi Okudaira, arrived at Israel’s Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, via Air France Flight 132 from Rome. After disembarking from the plane the three members of the JRA proceeded to the baggage claim area. Upon retrieving their luggage, they took out automatic weapons packed inside the suitcases and opened fire on other passengers in the baggage claim area.
The attack was a joint operation of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – External Operations (PFLP-EO), and the Japanese Red Army. The idea behind the joint effort was for the JRA to carry out attacks for the PLFP, and vice versa, in order to reduce suspicion. The plan worked, as Okamoto and his comrades attracted little attention prior to their attack.
They killed 26 people and injured 71 others. Yasuyuki Yasuda was accidentally shot dead by one of the other attackers. Tsuyoshi Okudaira was killed by one of his own grenades, either due to accidental premature explosion or as a suicide. Kōzō Okamoto was wounded and captured trying to escape the terminal. The attack became known as the Lod Airport massacre.
Now, the remaining five members, along with Okamoto were arrested in Lebanon and awaiting extradition to Japan to face charges at home.
In other news – government raids on rebels positions in Zaire were continuing with air strikes at refugee camps rumored to have been rebel strongholds.
And 1500 members of a group calling itself The Landless Peasants Movement (MFT) completed the first day of a two-month march on the Brazilian capitol of Brasilia. The march was in support of demands for land reform. The marchers set out from three different states to converge on the Capitol calling for land reform which the marchers said the government had been dragging its feet.
And that’s a small slice of news that happened in the world, via the BBC World Service program Newsday for February 18, 1996.