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Shigenobu declares end of Japanese Red Army

The founder of the Japanese Red Army has declared that she is disbanding the extremist group responsible for several acts of international terrorism since the 1970s.

Fusako Shigenobu, currently under arrest in Japan, said Saturday in a letter to a gathering of about 100 supporters in Tokyo, “I will seek new fights by disbanding the Japanese Red Army.”

Shigenobu, who was arrested last November in Osaka Prefecture, founded the group in Lebanon in 1971. According to Japanese intelligence sources, at its peak the group claimed to have 30 or 40 members.

“In that specific era and situation, our armed struggle represented people’s demands,” Shigenobu, 55, said, justifying her activities in the Middle East.

She went on to say she was abandoning arms in favor of political means to achieve her goals. “I will launch new fights from Japan based on a legal partnership with (colleagues in) the world, meeting the demands of this era.”

In recent years, the organization has been considerably less active than it was in its heyday in the 1970s, when it was involved in several high-profile terrorist incidents.

Shigenobu has been indicted on charges of attempted murder over the group’s 1974 seizure of the French Embassy in The Hague, as well as forging and using forged passports that year and between 1997 and 2000.

Although she was not present at the embassy seizure, Shigenobu is accused of masterminding the attack in a bid to secure the release of a Japanese Red Army member under arrest in Paris at the time.

Shigenobu’s supporters said Saturday she will plead not guilty to charges over the 1974 incident in her first hearing, scheduled to take place April 23 at the Tokyo District Court.

Japanese police say Shigenobu’s followers were also involved in a 1972 attack at Lod airport — now called Ben Gurion airport — in Tel Aviv in which about 25 people were killed, as well as the 1975 seizure of the Swedish and U.S. embassies in Kuala Lumpur and the 1977 hijacking of a Japan Airlines plane over India.