T O K Y O, June 29, 2001 -- Several men allegedly raped a Japanese woman on Okinawa island today, and a witness said the attack appeared to have been committed by U.S. military personnel, police said.
Police were questioning the victim, who is in her 20s, andsearching the central Okinawan town of Chatan, which is locatednear several American military bases.
The unidentified passersby who said he witnessed the attackbefore dawn in Chatan called police to report it, saying theforeign men involved appeared to be American servicemen.
Police rushed to the scene and were questioning the woman andsearching the area, said Shoichi Shinzato, a spokesman for theOkinawa prefectural (state) police.
No other details were immediately available, and U.S. militaryofficials declined to comment about the case. "We have noinformation," said Masao Doi, a spokesman at Kadena Air Base inOkinawa, the largest U.S. defense facility in Asia.
U.S. Presence Largely Unwelcome
Okinawa is home to most of the 50,000 U.S. troops based inJapan, and crimes committed by soldiers against Japanese there haveraised public outcries in the past.
The biggest case involved the gang rape of a 12-year-oldschoolgirl in 1995 by two U.S. Marines and a sailor, which sparkedthe biggest anti-U.S. demonstrations in Japan in decades.
Last year, just before an official visit by then-U.S. PresidentClinton, an American soldier was arrested after entering thehome of a Japanese family on Okinawa island in the middle of thenight, getting into the bed of a young girl and molesting her. TheU.S. military responded by imposing a drinking ban and a late-nightcurfew on all service members.
That case also sparked protests on the island and demands forthe reduction in U.S. military bases there, prompting Clinton toexpress regret for misconduct by American service members.
Today's alleged rape occurred several hours before PrimeMinister Junichiro Koizumi was to leave for the United States forhis first summit meeting with U.S. President Bush sincebeing elected in Japan in April.