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1972: Japanese kill 26 at Tel Aviv airport

Three Japanese gunmen have opened fire on crowds at Lod International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, killing 26 people and injuring dozens more.

The three men arrived on an Air France flight from Paris and once their luggage had come through to the baggage hall, they drew out automatic guns and hand grenades and fired randomly at anybody in sight.

One of the men ran out onto the tarmac, shot passengers disembarking an El Al flight and then killed himself with his own hand grenade.

A second man was shot by security guards and a third was arrested.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said they had recruited the gunmen from the Japanese Red Army and said they "came from thousands of miles away to join the Palestinian people in their struggle".

In a statement, they said the raid was an act of revenge for killing two Arab hijackers who attempted to take a plane at Lod airport on 8 May.

Among the victims were 11 Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land from Puerto Rico.

Eminent scientist dead

A leading Israeli scientist Professor Aharon Katzir, aged 62, was also killed. He was professor of chemistry at the Weizmann Institute of Science and former president of the Israel Academy of Sciences.

All incoming airliners were diverted to Cyprus until authorities had taken control of the situation.

Israel's defence minister, Moshe Dayan and Transport Minister, Shimon Peres, arrived at the airport soon after the attack to witness a scene of carnage, with dead and dying people all across the terminal.

Israeli officials are expected to call on all international airports to improve their security measures.

In Context
The two gunmen who died were later named as Kyoto university student Takeshi Okudaira, codenamed Giro, and Yasuyuki Yasuda, also a student. All three had been trained in Baalbeck, Lebanon, and had planned to commit suicide after their "mission" was completed.

The surviving gunman, Kozo Okamoto, was tried in June 1972 and given a life sentence, in spite of his pleas to be allowed to shoot himself.

He spent 13 years in jail in Israel before being released in a prisoner exchange with the Palestinians. He was given asylum in Lebanon where he is regarded as a hero and converted to Islam.

Lod, or Lydda, airport has since been renamed Ben Gurion Airport and has some of the strictest airport security in the world.


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