The 1988 Naples attack: the Japanese Red Army and international terrorism

by Federico Quagliuolo

At 7.49 pm on April 14, 1988, the historic center of Naples was upset by a roar. In fact, in Calata San Marco it was a car exploded, killing 5 bystanders and injuring 15 other residents. The scenario, in the alley behind Town Hall Square, it was that of a war: the TNT-stuffed car had done blow up shop windows and windows across the street and the column of smoke could be seen from every point of the city: this episode went down in history as "The attack in Naples".

Those were the times of the war against the Mafia and the years of lead among the clans of the gods Spanish Quarters: and initially it was thought that it could be an event of Camorra origin. It was immediately clear who he was the real recipient: the Americans of the USO, the recreational club of the US soldiers stationed in the base of Agnano. It was in fact scheduled in those hours a party to welcome the commander of the destroyer USS Paul arrived just the day before in the city. To claim it was the terrible Japanese Red Army.

This horror, which killed and wounded innocent people, today he has not yet found justice and is not even remembered by a plaque.

A great world intrigue

The 1980s were a complex time. Many regret them for the air of lightness they breathed and for it historic first Scudetto of Napoli, the city was in the midst of a very strong deterioration and still counted the innumerable damages for the earthquake of 1980.
Decreasing the zoom e looking on the world, the reports of local and international newspapers remember them precisely for all those movements that prepared what happened in the modern era.
Reagan's Americain fact, he was preparing the banquet for with an aggressive policy celebrate the collapse of the Soviet bloc that would arrive shortly thereafter: tensions were mounting in the Middle East which, in 1990, would lead to the Gulf War. Italy instead he was in the midst of one of the most complex periods in criminal history, while he was crying Mattarella and Dalla Chiesa. On the other hand, the political class was about to collide with the scandal of Tangentopoli. In short, the attack in Naples was only a small warning of a pressure cooker about to explode.

In this framework he moved the Japanese Red Army, which seems almost an oxymoron. In reality it was a terrorist group founded in 1971 by Fusako Shigenobu, a Japanese activist linked toextreme Japanese left who in the 1970s went to the Middle East to support the Palestinian cause. With his armed group, which counted in the 1980s 400 men, had a dream: return to Japan to make a coup, killing the Emperor and establishing in Tokyo the basis for a world revolution. In the meantime, they militated in the ranks of theanti-American and anti-Israeli Islamic extremism.

The reality was that this group left behind a trail of blood in the 70s and 80s, becoming famous for his assaults, kidnappings and killings at Israeli and US civilian airports and bases. After American bombing of Libya in 1986, then, came the drop that made the camel's back overflow.

Attentato di Napoli TG americani
The announcement of the attack in Naples in the American news

The attack in Naples, a revenge for Lebanon

The images of the Naples attack were dramatic: it was a completely unexpected event for the police. To pay the price in the most atrocious way was a street vendor which was always stationed in front of the USO and was right next to the Ford Fiesta at the time of the explosion: the TNT wreaked havoc on his body, scattered all over the street even with pieces that arrived in nearby buildings. Vincenzo Chiariello, this was his name, he was nicknamed "Popeye”By the Americans and it was a lot popular. He left the world a 61 years old, after surviving two wars and starvation during bombing.

The other victims were Assunta Capuano, of 32 years old, Guido Scozza, just barely 27 years old, and Maurizio Perrone of 21 years, all passers-by who were there by sheer misfortune, at the moment of the explosion. The only American soldier killed in the attack was a very young marine of just 21 years, Angela Santos, of Puerto Rican origin. They were in the hospital instead admitted 15 people in more or less condition severe.

TO midnight, four hours after the attack, he arrived an anonymous call in the direction of ANSA in which a Japanese Red Army emissary said that "all American imperialists would have died that way" is that "the bombing was a way to commemorate the civilians who died in the 1986 bombing“.

They left immediately the FBI and Digos investigations and the author was quickly found: betrayed by a fingerprint on the contract of rental of the car that would then be exploded, the Japanese was identified Junzō Okudaira. He was already known to law enforcement for doing another attack in Rome in 1987, in front of the American consulate, where fortunately there were no casualties or injuries. TO Tel Avivinstead, in 1976 he became famous for having killed in cold blood 26 innocents in the airport of the former Israeli capital. The arrest warrant was issued, but the Japanese was nowhere to be found.

Junzo Okudaira Attentato di Napoli 1988
The perpetrator of the attack in Naples according to the Naples Police Headquarters, news released in 2020. Photo by the Agency TO SAY.

The black shadow of the Naples attack: an unsolved tragedy

The 1988 Naples bombing left with it a much darker shadow than the facade of the building hit by the explosion. Fusako Shigenobu, the founder of the Japanese Red Army, was only captured in 2000 in Osaka, after thirty years of inaction, and was sentenced by the Japanese justice to 20 years in prison, finished in 2020. In Italy instead it had been acquitted by the Court of Assizes of Naples for insufficient evidence.
The perpetrator of the attack, Junzō Okudaira, sentenced tolife sentence in the United States in 1993, it still is today fugitive and hangs over his head a bounty of $ 5 million. It is assumed that, along with him on the day of the attack, they were also there two North Africans. No one has ever spotted them.

Symbolically, the Japanese Red Army was disbanded on April 14, 2001.

In Calata San Marco, however, not even a plaque to remember the innocent who lost their lives in one of the first acts of international terrorism in Italy which, with useless and cowardly atrocities, are then becomesyou the ordinary horror of this beginning of the third millennium.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Attentato di Napoli 1988 automobile
What remained of the car after the 1988 Naples attack

References:
HANDLE
New York Times
The Republic
Stylo24
British

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