The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun
Preventing lone wolf attacks remains urgent task
The shooting death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe again sheds light on the difculties in preventing lone wolf attacks. e suspect, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, is a former member of the Maritime Self-Defense Force. e police have not con rmed his involvement in any extremist or right-wing group, or any other suspicious organization that the police would have been monitoring.
“He was completely o the radar,” a senior police o cer said.
Items police con scated from Yamagami’s one-room apartment of about 10 square meters included homemade guns and gunpowder, and tools for making these objects.
“I can’t imagine how he prepared so thoroughly at such a high level,” another senior police o cer said with surprise.
According to investigators, Yamagami held a grudge against the religious organization his mother has been part of called the Family Federation for World Peace and Uni cation, commonly known as the Uni cation Church.
Yamagami believed Abe had ties with the Uni cation Church, thus he hatched his plan to kill the former prime minister, according to investigators.
e police said that Yamagami made the gunpowder by mixing components from fertilizers and other materials bought online and learned how to manufacture homemade guns through YouTube videos.
“An individual secretly makes weapons and suddenly commits a crime on a given day while no one is aware of anything,” said Isao Itabashi, the chief of the Institute for Analysis and Studies of the Council for Public Policy and an expert on antiterrorism measures. “It’s the typical case of a lone wolf.”
DRONE INCIDENT IN ABE’S TENURE
So far, police had sought to prevent acts of terrorism targeting politicians or important facilities by keeping watch on extremists and other potential attackers.
During election campaigns, police dispatch special investigators who can identify extremist group members and other suspicious people at speech venues.
In recent years, however, there have been a remarkable number of lone wolf suspects, making it increasingly di cult to uncover signs of a threat.
In April 2015 while Abe was prime minister, a drone was
own onto the roof of the Prime Minister’s O ce. e man who
ew the drone wrote in a blog post, “Guerilla warfare, I’m taking the rst step by acting on my own … I’m a lone wolf.”
e drone carried radioactive materials. e man surrendered to police two days a er the incident and he was convicted of charges including forcible obstruction of business.
ough the man was committed to opposing nuclear energy, he had not belonged
to known citizens groups or other entities advocating this position. Police also found no evidence that the man had participated in protests either.
“Until his surrender to police, we were not aware of him at all,” said a senior o cial of the Metropolitan Police Department who took part in the investigation. “I felt deeply that it would be necessary to strengthen measures to deal with these lone wolves.”
FOCUSING ON 2 AREAS
In recent years, police have focused on two areas in their measures to deal with such individuals.
e rst area regards explosives. Since the 2000s, police have asked retailers of chemicals that can become ingredients in explosive materials to
notify police of suspicious orders. In 2015, police asked major online retailers to provide information about suspicious persons who buy pyrotechnic products from which gunpowder can be removed.
e second area targets social media. In 2016, the National Police Agency established the Internet OSINT Center, which automatically collects postings and other information that may be connected with acts of terrorism and has used it in investigations.
e NPA has also asked operators of websites with information on how to make guns to delete the information.
However, such police requests to private businesses are not legally binding and thus the e ectiveness of the measures is limited. (Aug. 1)