TERRORISM: The Red Army Returns

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The pattern was all too familiar. Three men, armed with pistols and a grenade, strode into the French embassy in The Hague just before closing time and occupied the fourth floor of the modern concrete and glass building. Seizing eleven hostages, including French Ambassador Count Jacques Senard and several business executives, they issued a nonnegotiable demand: a comrade held in a French prison must be released or the hostages would be killed one by one, beginning at 3 next morning. The demand was scrawled in red ink on a piece of paper and tossed out a window. It was from the Japanese Red Army, the terrorist group that two years ago gained international notoriety by massacring 27 people at Lod Airport in Tel Aviv.

Dutch police immediately rushed into the embassy but were repulsed with two wounded; two of the Japanese were also hit in the exchange of fire. The police then laid siege to the occupied building while French and Dutch authorities hastily acted to meet the terrorists' demands. One was that Red Army Member Yutaka Furuya—who was arrested in Paris last July after he was found carrying counterfeit bills, fake passports, and a plan for attacks on embassies and businesses throughout France—be freed. He was whisked from his Parisian jail to The Netherlands in a French air force jet. (Strangely, Furuya resisted the move so strenuously that when the plane landed at The Hague airport, he had to be dragged off it.)

The next morning the situation became deadlocked as Dutch negotiators, led by Premier Joop den Uyl, tried desperately to whittle away the resistance of the terrorists. At one point, the talks broke down entirely when the commandos refused to communicate with government spokesmen. The Dutch reopened communications by writing a plea in huge Japanese characters on a 20-ft. roll of paper that was spread out on the street below the embassy windows. The following night, a Boeing 707 and a crew, demanded by the Red Army commandos, was readied for takeoff at nearby Schiphol Airport. Several hours later, two women were released, but the only confirmation that the other hostages were still alive came when Ambassador Senard waved briefly from a fourth-floor window. One hostage later reported that several of the prisoners quietly discussed trying to overcome the three Japanese while they dozed, but the terrorists quickly awoke whenever anybody got near them.

White Gloves. Last Tuesday, after four days of talks, the terrorists accepted a Dutch offer of $300,000 in exchange for the hostages (France earlier had refused to meet a $1 million ransom demand). Wearing black hoods and white gloves and holding guns at the backs of six hostages (three had been left behind because they were sick), the commandos boarded a bus to go to Schiphol Airport. After the hostages boarded the Boeing, Furuya was handed over to the terrorists. Then, as a flight crew boarded the aircraft, the hostages one by one disembarked. Surrounded by hundreds of troops and armored vehicles, the plane lifted off the runway, carrying enough fuel for an 8½-hour flight.

The plane landed first in Aden, then went north to Jordan and finally to Syria. On board, Flight Engineer Bernard Knight talked the terrorists into returning the $300,000 ransom. "They came to the conclusion that the money was no good to them anyway," he said, apparently because the notes were marked.

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