Nagano Olympic Security Tightened
NAGANO, Japan (AP) _ Tight security was stepped up further Wednesday at the Olympics and at Tokyo’s airport, where a rocket attack two days ago injured one worker and raised safety concerns for the Winter Games.
The attack Monday night came as thousands of foreign athletes, officials and spectators are streaming through Tokyo’s Narita International Airport on their way to the Olympics, which start on Saturday.
Police have no evidence the launch of the homemade rockets was aimed at disrupting the flow of people to Nagano, airport spokesman Fujio Takahashi said Tuesday.
And while no one has claimed responsibility for the attack at the airport 40 miles east of Tokyo, authorities suspect it was carried out by leftist radicals who have long opposed the building of a second runway there.
Radicals frequently have claimed responsibility for similar attacks in the past _ although this is the first one to result in an injury.
Asata Hara, director of security operations for the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee (NAOC), said stricter checks at Olympic venues would be instituted.
``NAOC will increase the security measures further in order to secure a safe Nagano Olympic Winter Games,″ Hara said. ``NAOC is consulting with police authorities to strengthen anti-terrorism measures and to prevent such a dangerous incident.″
Police in the region surrounding the airport have set up a 80-member special force to investigate the attack, a spokesman said Wednesday (Tuesday night EST).
In addition, a ``considerable″ number of officers were joining the 500 police assigned daily to the airport, the spokesman said on condition of anonymity.
Although no link has been established to the games, the timing of the attack is deeply embarrassing to the Japanese government and has caused particular concern in Japan.
Mitsuhiro Uesugi, who as National Public Safety Commission chairman is one of Japan’s top security officials, told reporters in Tokyo the attack was an ``extremely heinous crime.″
International Olympic Committee officials said they were confident in the ability of the police to protect the games, which are drawing about 2,200 athletes from a record 72 countries.
``We are being kept fully informed of the developments,″ IOC director general Francois Carrard said. ``We are being told security measures have been upgraded and reinforced.″
Carrard added that Japanese authorities and the organizers are being ``extremely meticulous.″
Still, he said people at the games may be seeing more security officers, tighter procedures and less flexibility.
Some 6,000 police _ including 4,000 reinforcements from across the country _ will be mobilized for the Feb. 7-22 games in Nagano, about 115 miles northwest of Tokyo.
The police presence here is already heavy. Police patrols and armored vans have kept a high profile in the past week, but there was no visible increase of forces at venues Tuesday.
Security at the airport was being strongly upgraded.
Takahashi, the airport spokesman, said police were keeping closer watch on the airport buildings and more frequently patrolling the grounds on Tuesday to prevent another attack.
But airport police added that they were planning to step up security anyway to coincide with the approach of the games.
In the Monday night attack, two of the rockets landed and exploded in the paved area near the hangars for cargo planes, and a third was found intact nearby,
Police said that the projectile that remained intact measured about 10 inches long and 2 inches wide, suggesting it was a trench mortar, Kyodo News reported.
The attack forced the airport’s only runway to briefly close. Cargo handler Katsuji Fukushima, 20, suffered minor cuts on his forehead from flying rocket fragments.
Leftist radicals in the past have fired mortar-like projectiles toward the airport, but this was the first time anyone had been injured, Takahashi said. The airport was the scene of violent protests in the 1970s.
Several radical groups have long opposed the airport because they believe it could be used for military purposes. The airport opened in 1978.
Though not believed to be a threat to the games, the Aum Shinri Kyo cult was blamed for a nerve gas attack in Matsumoto, a city near Nagano, that killed seven people in 1994.
The cult was also involved in a nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subways that killed 12 people the following year, but most of its leaders are now in jail or in custody pending trial.