The chief of the National Police Agency said he regrets police have been unable to make an arrest before the statute of limitations for the 1987 murder of an Asahi Shimbun reporter was to expire at midnight Thursday.

“I deeply regret that we were unable to arrest the suspect, although police nationwide tried their utmost to do so,” NPA chief Setsuo Tanaka said earlier Thursday.

On May 3, 1987, a suspected rightwing extremist entered the newspaper’s bureau in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, and fatally shot Tomohiro Kojiri, 29. The suspect also seriously injured another reporter.

Police plan to continue the investigation at least until March, when the statute of limitations expires for another attack at the newspaper’s Shizuoka bureau in central Japan. A time bomb was placed in a parking lot at the bureau in March 1988.

“I hope police in the related regions will continue the investigation with the cooperation of the public,” the NPA chief said.

Hyogo Prefectural Police investigators believe a rightist group, reportedly upset with the newspaper over its editorials, was responsible for the shooting. But they have not made any arrests and have no suspects.

Police have added three investigators handling gang-related crime to the case as gangsters posing as political extremists may have been responsible, police officials said.

A group calling itself “Sekihotai” claimed responsibility for the shooting spree at the Hanshin bureau. Apparently an ultranationalist organization, it said the newspaper is “anti-Japanese” and promised to “execute all Asahi Shimbun employees.”

The killing was widely seen as a terrorist act aimed at suppressing freedom of speech. The Asahi Shimbun’s publisher was also targeted, apparently by the same group, in other attacks that included a shooting at a dormitory of the paper’s Nagoya bureau in September 1987. No one was hurt in the incident.

The Asahi Shimbun, widely viewed as a liberal daily, has been the target of sporadic attacks by rightwing extremists.

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