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Explosions reported near U.S. base in Japan

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

TOKYO -- Two explosions were reported late Monday outside a U.S. military base near Tokyo, and a projectile launcher was found near the site, U.S. military officials and Japanese police said Tuesday.

Police suspected it was an attack and that leftist radicals may have been involved, according to Japan's Kyodo news service. No injuries or damage were reported, Kyodo said.

In Washington, Maj. Timothy Blair, a Pentagon spokesman, said an explosion had been reported about 800 feet from Camp Zama, the headquarters for the U.S. Army Japan and the 9th Theater Support Command.

Army spokesman Capt. Benjamin Kuykendall said two suspects were believed to be in custody, but added that because the blast occurred off base, the inquiry was being handled by Japanese authorities. He said there were no immediate reports of casualties or even proof that the attack was directed against the base.

Japanese police spokesman Narihito Sasaki confirmed that two suspicious men had been seen near the blast site, but denied that they had been arrested and said he had no further details on them.

Sasaki said two explosions were heard in a park near the base at about 11 p.m. Police found a metal pipe used as a projectile launcher and burn marks nearby, he said.

The pipe was pointed toward Camp Zama, but said no projectile had been found on the base, he said.

Pentagon officials said the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, which is reponsible for U.S. forces in Japan, said there were no reports of injuries at Camp Zama.

Leftist radicals in Japan are known for using similar projectile launchers in attacks on targets related to the U.S. military here or on sites connected to the royal family. The attacks are usually more symbolic than dangerous, and injures or significant damage are rare.

About 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan under a mutual security pact.

Camp Zama is located about 10 miles south of Tokyo.


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