Wed, Feb 14, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Mystery blasts outside US base in Japan investigated

SUSPECTS UNKNOWN No one has claimed responsibility for the two small blasts late on Monday night, but leftist extremist groups have carried out similar attacks before


Japanese police were investigating a suspected guerrilla attack on the US Army after two small explosions outside a military base south of Tokyo, police said yesterday.

There were no reports of injury or damage, and no one claimed responsibility, police said.

Investigators found a pair of metal tubes -- apparently improvised rocket launchers aimed toward the Camp Zama base -- at a nearby park, Kanagawa Prefecture police spokesman Hiroyoshi Ichikawa said.

Ichikawa said that he could not rule out a terrorist attack, but that he suspected they were "guerrilla attacks," possibly by leftist extremists. He said that further details were not immediately known, and that police were trying to identify the suspects.

Japanese leftist radicals have in the past launched similar attacks on government facilities and the US military to oppose an airport facility expansion, bilateral security and other issues.

Leftist extremists in Japan have used projectile launchers against targets related to the US military or on sites connected to the royal family. The attacks are usually more symbolic than dangerous, and injuries or significant damage are rare.

Police were searching the neighborhood for more evidence yesterday.

The US Army was also investigating the blast, a Camp Zama official said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.

"A small explosion was heard in the vicinity of the base," said Major David Smith, a Pentagon spokesman in Washington. "It did not occur on the base."

Security around US bases elsewhere in Japan appeared the same as usual, police said.

Residents outside the Zama base reported hearing two explosions late on Monday night.

The US Army could not immediately confirm the cause of the blasts.

In 2002, two explosions were heard outside Camp Zama, and police found a metal projectile and a crude mortar made from a metal pipe nearby. Investigators blamed radical guerrillas for the explosions, which caused no injuries.

The US has about 50,000 troops based in Japan under a security treaty. Residents complain of crime, pollution and noise associated with the bases, but large-scale protests against the military presence have largely been confined to Okinawa.

The government has stepped up anti-terror security measures around Japan since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the US.

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