National

Wanted Red Army member left trail in Philippines

Kunio Bando, a key member of the Japanese Red Army militant group who is on an international wanted list, may have been in the Philippines around summer 2000, according to sources.

Bando, 56, is believed to have taken refuge in a banana plantation in Negros, the sources said, adding that he left indications behind of heading for China after that.

Bando is wanted in connection with the 1977 hijacking of a Paris-Tokyo Japan Airlines jet to Dhaka.

He was captured during a shootout between the now-defunct United Red Army group and police at a lodge near Mount Asama in February 1972. He was later released under an extralegal arrangement.

Investigative sources said Bando contacted Fusako Shigenobu, 57, founder of the Japanese Red Army, several times between 1997 and 1999.

Shigenobu was arrested in Osaka in November 2000 and is on trial for her role in a hostage-taking incident at the French Embassy in The Hague in September 1974 and other charges.

Bando and Shigenobu are believed to have met in Moscow in 1999 to plan rebuilding their organization. He worked in the apparel industry in Tianjin, China, during this period, apparently to raise funds for the Red Army, the investigative sources said.

On Feb. 19, 1972, Bando and four other United Red Army members locked themselves in a mountain lodge at the foot of Mount Asama in Nagano Prefecture and resisted arrest for 10 days.

Taking the caretaker’s wife hostage, the five exchanged fire with riot police, killing two officers and a civilian and wounding 16 others. The five were finally captured.

While he was being tried on murder and other charges, Bando was released from jail in 1975 and left for Libya in an extralegal deal with Japanese Red Army members who had seized the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Bando is the only key extremist involved in the Mount Asama incident still at large.

The United Red Army and the Japanese Red Army were formed in the early 1970s after the student radical group Sekigunha, or Red Army Faction, splintered.

Bando, who hails from Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, dropped out of Kyoto University and played a role in forming the United Red Army. He later joined the Japanese Red Army.