Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Surviving Gunman Says Trio Trained Openly Near Beirut for Lydda Raid

June 6, 1972
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The three Japanese gunmen responsible for the Lydda Airport massacre last Tuesday trained openly for their deadly mission on the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon and were in close contact with Palestinian terrorists and plane hijackers in the Lebanese capital since last March, it was disclosed today, The information was gleaned from the continuing interrogation of the captured gunman Kozo Okamoto, alias Namba Dai Saka, and disclosed to the press by Lt. Col. Mordechai Tavor at Jerusalem police headquarters.

Col. Tavor also disclosed the names of the two other gunmen who were killed–Takeshi Ukudaira and Yasuki. He said all three, in their early 20s, had been students at the University of Japan. They entered Israel on forged passports and gave false names, birth dates and places of birth. All were members of the outlawed Red Star group in Japan, Okamoto having joined in 1970. Col. Tavor said the three arrived in Beirut last March and took an apartment there. According to Tavor, the trio met early this year with a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine known as Abu Ali in Japan.

Col. Tavor said that the assassins received Czech-made automatic rifles, grenades and ammunition in Beirut where their mission was explained to them on May 16. They undertook to kill themselves on its completion. While in Beirut they were in contact with at least six PFLP members, among them Mohammed Abu ol Haja, Yusuf Ibrahim Tufik and Ahmed Hassan Hadi, Col. Tavor said, Haja and Tufik participated in the shooting of an El Al plane at Zurich Airport in Feb. 1969 and were arrested but later exchanged for hostages aboard four hijacked jets in northern Jordan in Sept. 1970.

Police Chief Pinhas Koppel said today that the questioning of Kozo Okamoto would be completed by the end of this week. He said that it would be decided then whether to try him before a military tribunal or a civilian court. Israel has abolished the death penalty except for Nazis and Nazi collaborators. But a military tribunal with two lawyers on the panel may impose the death sentence for terrorist activities. So far only two death sentences have been pronounced and both were commuted to life imprisonment.

Recommended from JTA