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Officials close flea market after weapons scandal

Date Posted: 2003-09-13

Japanese police and other officials have ordered the unofficial flea market at Shirokawa, behind Chibana Housing Area, closed after they discovered that the Air Self-Defense Force sergeant who accidentally blew himself up with and anti-tank rocket a week ago had operated a booth in the area, where he had sold military-related items for over a ten-year period.

Officials ordered the booths removed, and the area fenced off on both sides of the road, even though there has been no evidence that the sergeant had sold any of the weapons or ammunition found in his possession.

The closure of the area does not impact the flea market at Chibana Housing Area that is operated and managed by the 18th Services Squadron. Officials at 18th Services Marketing said that they would continue to run the popular flea market as usual.

However, the number of customers during the weekend was clearly fewer than usual. “That’s probably because the public is confused because the reporting in local media has not made it clear that these are two different flea markets altogether,” a man selling used clothes said.

Vendors ordered to close their booths at Shirokawa are not happy about the situation. “That sergeant has been selling goods here for more than ten years and I knew him well,” a vendor who was packing up his belongings said. “He had always a lot of stuff for sale. Some of it looked very strange, tools and such, and I could not tell what it was, but I never saw him sell anything that looked dangerous or suspicious in any way. Now we have to close our businesses. It’s not fair,” the vendor who wanted to stay anonymous said.

Regular customers are not happy either. A man who said that he comes from Ogimi Village on northern part of the island several times a month said he is angry with the sergeant. “I come here to buy cheap clothes, washing powder and other daily goods. I’m not interested in military goods and would not know a shooting bullet if I saw one. But because of the sergeant and his actions, this place is going to close and I have no other place to buy goods that I need so cheap. I hate that guy,” the man said.

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