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Police completes weapons search at sergeantís houses

Date Posted: 2003-09-13

Police finished searching a house in Naha rented by an Air Self-Defense Force sergeant to store a large cache of weapons early this week. The sergeant was killed a week ago when an anti-tank rocket he was handling exploded. Consequent investigation discovered several weapons and large amount of ammunition and explosive material in the sergeantís house and six other locations.

The arsenal discovered includes 19 rocket launchers, a U.S. military issue M-16 rifle, an M-1 carbine rifle, and 670 live rounds of ammunition and 20 grams of gunpowder. Four 66-mm U.S.-made rockets anti-tank rockets were also found. Other military items found in the sergeantís possession included a large number of empty magazines, military helmets and clothing items. Both the manís residence and a house he rented were reportedly packed with such items.

Investigators believe the sergeant collected the military goods over the years, intending them for resale. They are now trying to figure out how he obtained the arsenal of weapons.

U.S. Air Force personnel defused the four U.S. antitank rockets last Saturday, together with officers from Okinawa Prefectural Police and explosive disposal officers from the Japanese Self-Defense force monitoring the operation.

About 400 people living close to the Naha house were evacuated from their homes during the operation, while 550 residents were evacuated to a community center during the defusing operation in the sergeantís apartment in Gushi earlier the same day.

Although the rockets were defused without any problems, many local residents said that they were upset. ďHow he managed to get hold of such dangerous items,Ē a 40-year-old man living in the neighborhood of the sergeantís house asked. ďIt is my understanding that the weapons come from the U.S. arsenal. They must tighten control over their weapons,Ē the man said.

Okinawan authorities have asked the U.S. military to investigate how the sergeant had obtained the possession of the rifles based on their serial numbers.

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