Curious case in Japan: On his deathbed he claims to be a wanted top terrorist. Is he telling the truth?

Almost every Japanese person knew his face.

Curious case in Japan: On his deathbed he claims to be a wanted top terrorist. Is he telling the truth?

Almost every Japanese person knew his face. For decades, the young man with long hair and square glasses smiled at people - from a wanted poster. Now, after almost half a century, the solving of one of Japan's most mysterious crimes has come a lot closer.

The man on the poster: Satoshi Kirishima. Since the 1970s, he has been wanted by Japanese police for a series of bombings that he is said to have committed as a member of the left-wing extremist organization East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front. Around 50 years later he emerged from the underground. In a hospital, terminally ill, he confessed: "I am Satoshi Kirishima." He died a few days later and the investigators were faced with the question: Was this man really the top terrorist they were looking for?

Japan in the 1970s. Similar to the Red Army Faction (RAF) in Germany, left-wing extremist terrorist groups spread fear and terror in Japan and beyond. For example, the Japanese Red Army (JRA) made global headlines in 1972 with an attack on Tel Aviv Airport in Israel. 26 people were killed.

One of these groups was the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front, which carried out attacks on Japanese companies, such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Tokyo in 1974. Eight people were killed. A year later, there was a bomb attack in the posh Ginza district of Tokyo. Kirishima, who was born in Hiroshima, is believed to have been involved in this attack and four others. After the Ginza assassination attempt, he went into hiding for almost 50 years and was placed on the list of Japan's most wanted.

In January this year, a 70-year-old man was admitted to hospital for cancer treatment. Under a false name, it turns out. A few days later he admits that he is the Kirishima he is looking for.

As Hiroshi Uchida, Kirishima led a double life. According to Japanese media reports, he worked for a construction company in the city of Fujisawa, south of Tokyo; He greeted neighbors in a friendly manner. He had his wages paid out in cash. In order to stay under the radar of the authorities, he also had no health insurance, no driver's license and avoided money transfers.

As the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported, Kirishima, alias Uchida, often visited a restaurant near his home, where, according to employees, he enjoyed drinking alcohol and listening to rock music. "He had a calm demeanor and I never thought he was the corporate bomber," the owner told the newspaper.

A colleague of Kirishima told TV Asahi that he had "lost a lot of weight" compared to his mugshot. According to media reports, Kirishima paid for treatment for stomach cancer out of his own pocket and only revealed his true identity after he was admitted to the hospital. "I want to face death with my real name," Kirishima told hospital staff, according to public broadcaster NHK. He died four days later, on January 29th.

But the police wanted to be sure. She took DNA samples from Kirishima shortly before his death and compared them with those of his relatives since there were no fingerprints of the man. The results now show that there were “no discrepancies in the relationship,” as the Kyodo news agency reported. The investigators wanted to further investigate how the man was able to survive on the run for 49 years and whether anyone had helped him. For this purpose, Kirishima's apartment was also searched.

During several days of interrogation in the hospital, Kirishima denied having anything to do with the attack in Ginza, according to Kyodo. However, he indicated that he had been involved in other bomb attacks on a construction company and that he regretted doing so. He also said that he went into hiding without help. "I had no contact with other (group) members and lived alone for a long time," he said, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

The East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front carried out a total of twelve bombings, including several abroad. These attacks were directed, among other things, against the Mitsui trading company

In May 1975, eight people were arrested who were said to have been involved in the attacks. Because some suspects are still abroad, the statute of limitations has been suspended in the Kirishima case, Kyodo reported.

Although Satoshi Kirishima has died, Tokyo police have filed a criminal complaint with prosecutors against him for attempted murder and violating the explosives law, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper wrote on Tuesday. A relative of one of the bombing victims told the newspaper he hoped police "can shed some light on the bombings with the words and traces the man left behind."

Sources: AFP and Kyodo news agencies, "Asahi Shimbun", "Mainichi Shimbun", "Yomiuri Shimbun", Rewards for Justice