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Igei residents stage new protest over alleged stray bullet

Date Posted: 2009-03-06

“We will continue fighting until American stop their exercises,” says Masafumi Ikehara, who’s spearheading an effort by Igei area residents to get the U.S. military to back off on using a training range only a few hundred meters from the community.

The feuding over safety of residents at Kin Town’s Igei area has been going on since 2004, when the military first began constructing Range 4, an urban type battle exercise facility, but has taken on new life since a stray bullet was found last December lodged in the license plate of a car on a Kin Town street. The U.S. military’s disavowed the bullet as having come from its training area, but Ikehara, who’s head of the Igei area Ward, says “we have to protect the children and grandchildren’s safety from the American military’s exercises.”

Nearly half the Igei area’s 900 residents, 430 people, turned out Sunday for a general protest meeting to discuss how to get action. “We need to get together with all prefecture people and fight,” says Ikehara. “We know that stray bullet was surly from the American exercises, but the American side has never admitted it,” he says. “We have to stand up and speak with a big voice.”

Igei residents first protested the range when it was being built more than four years ago, warning it was too close—only 300 meters—from their town. They warned then that stray bullets cold happen, “so when it really happened, we were afraid.” One resident says the current concerns over the bullet discovered less than three months ago “is a very big problem, more than the range 4 facility.”

Residents say they “want every Prefecture person to stand up and think with interest about this problem, and then fight together with us,” says Ikehara.

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