MANILA — A Philippine official said Wednesday that terrorists of the Japanese Red Army have been secretly building an operating base in Manila that may be used to mount attacks on the Olympic Games in Seoul this summer.
Miriam Defensor Santiago, commissioner of immigration and deportation, disclosed the alleged plot after a Japanese national identified as a top Red Army leader, Hiroshi Sensui, was arrested and flown to Japan under heavy guard.
Sensui, 51, a convicted killer, was released from a Japanese prison in 1977 in exchange for 156 hostages seized when a Japan Air Lines jet was hijacked in Bangladesh.
Philippine intelligence agents arrested Sensui on Tuesday at a hotel in suburban Manila, where he was recovering from cosmetic surgery that had so changed his appearance that he could be identified only by his fingerprints.
Officials at the Japanese Embassy here had asked the Philippine authorities to find Sensui and take him into custody. Under heavy guard, he was flown to Tokyo, where police officials said they plan to question him today.
According to Philippine officials, Sensui entered the Philippines last December and had been living in a suburb of Manila under the name Hiroshi Yamaguchi.
Santiago told reporters that Sensui had been linked to suspected Red Army members who are still under investigation here.
She said Sensui, whom she described as "a sleeper agent," had been helping to put together a front organization that was "basically a terrorist organization posing as a pacifist organization."
Asked whether Sensui's presence in the Philippines could be linked to reports of planned terrorism in connection with the Seoul Olympics, she said: "That is a definite possibility. The law enforcement agencies in the region already have received preliminary information that this group (the Japanese Red Army) does plan terrorist activity connected to the Olympic Games."
Sensui's Manila network "cannot be extensive at this stage," she said, "but his colleagues are still in the country." She said the Philippine government is continuing its investigation and that more arrests and deportations are expected.
The Japanese Red Army, which was involved in a series of terrorist acts in the 1960s and 1970s, resurfaced recently. A car-bomb attack in April on a club for U.S. military personnel in Naples, Italy, was linked to the group. Also in April, a man identified as a Red Army member was arrested in New Jersey with a quantity of explosives.