Red Army Faction members searched over abductions

Police on Thursday searched 30 locations related to the Red Army Faction members who defected to North Korea for alleged links to the abduction of a Japanese woman to Pyongyang in the 1980s.

Nine group members who hijacked a Japan Airlines plane to North Korea in March 1970 were granted asylum there the same year. Some of them are believed to have helped abduct their fellow countrymen.

The police searched the homes of the former Red Army Faction members in 11 prefectures, hoping to find evidence related to the alleged involvement of hijacker Kimihiro Abe in the abduction of Keiko Arimoto from Europe to North Korea in 1983.

Abe, 54, suspected of being the ringleader in the abduction, is also believed to have had a hand in Arimoto’s marriage to a Japanese man in North Korea.

Japan has put Abe on the international wanted list and demanded that North Korea extradite the suspected ringleader to Japan.

During Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang on Sept. 17, Japan was told that Arimoto died Nov. 4, 1988, at age 28.

The former college student from Kobe was studying English in London. She disappeared after having written to her parents from Copenhagen.

Her case came to light on March 16, when Megumi Yao, the former wife of one of the nine Japanese hijackers, told a court that she had helped abduct Arimoto.

Yao met Arimoto in London in May 1983 and took her to Copenhagen in July that year on the pretense of hooking her up with a part-time job.

Yao then arranged for Arimoto to meet with Abe and North Korean diplomat Kim Yu Chol, believed to have been a North Korean agent. Arimoto is believed to have been taken to North Korea by Kim Yu Chol via Moscow shortly after that.

The police are planning to send papers to prosecutors on Yao and late senior faction member Takamaro Tamiya, who is believed to have ordered Arimoto’s abduction.