Police Question 48 Suspects Arrested in Rail Sabotage
TOKYO (AP) _ A 320-member special police squad today questioned 48 people suspected of the sabotage that paralyzed commuter trains in Tokyo and Osaka and cost government-run Japan National Railways more than $6 million in lost ticket sales.
Authorities said the saboteurs, who sliced vital railway communication cables in pre-dawn attacks Friday in 34 places around Japan, were apparently members of a radical leftist group, the Chukaku-ha, and took the action to support a 24-hour train motormen’s strike.
A 70-member police investigative team today searched the Hiroshima office of the Chukaku-ha, or Middle Core Faction, for evidence of any connection to the wrecking, said a Hiroshima prefectural police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The officer said police found six items, such as bills and documents, related to the sabotage in searches Friday night at Chukaku-ha’s offices in Tokyo and Osaka, and at the union’s headquarters. The officer refused to elaborate.
A Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department spokesman said officials were checking whether the slashing of three cables late Friday near the Matsukawa station, 140 miles northeast of Tokyo, was connected to the earlier attacks. The cables were used to control traffic signals.
The spokesman spoke on condition of anonymity.
In addition to severing communications cables, the saboteurs firebombed a train station in eastern Tokyo. Police said some 50 people wearing helmets and masks hurled firebombs at the Asakusabashi station at about 7 a.m. Friday, when no trains were operating. No injuries were reported.
Railways employees worked through the night to repair the damage at Asakusabashi. Station official Toru Yoshino said some of the roof was burned away, but the debris was cleared by this morning and passengers could travel safely.
Yoshino said workers had replaced 10 ticket machines, each worth the equivalent of $99,500, and cleared away enough rubble to fill 160 one-ton trucks.
The cable-cutting halted 20 commuter lines in Tokyo and two more lines in Osaka. A railways spokesman, Takashi Miyashiro, estimated that 6.5 million commuters were forced to take subways, cars, buses and bicycles, jamming the roads and overcrowding subway platforms.
All 22 lines resumed at least limited service in time for the evening rush hour.
Another railways spokesman, Shuji Kurimoto, said the system lost $6.46 million in revenue due to Friday’s lost ticket sales.
The Chukaku-ha has a long history of arson and bloody feuding. The 1,300- member radical group is best known for its opposition to the building and planned expansion of the New Tokyo International Airport at Narita.
The 1,100-member motormen’s union in Chiba, near Tokyo, which split from the 34,200-member National Motormen’s Union in the late 1970s, held a 24-hour strike beginning at noon Thursday to protest plans to turn Japan National Railways over to private ownership.
Union Chairman Hiroshi Nakano later issued a statement disclaiming any connection with the sabotage.