• Kyodo

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Police investigating an explosion that killed an Air Self-Defense Force sergeant found two antitank rockets and 15 rocket launchers Friday in a house he rented to store some of his military items.

Senior Master Sgt. Takio Tamura, 53, who died Sunday while handling ammunition at a separate storage site, is suspected of amassing an arsenal that included at least four antitank rockets, 15 rocket launchers, a U.S. military issue M-16 rifle and about 500 rounds of ammunition, and an M-1 carbine rifle and about 50 rounds and 50 empty magazines.

They said the two 66-mm antitank rockets found Friday at the house in Naha’s Oroku district, which Tamura rented in 1995, are the same type as two found Tuesday at his home in Naha’s Gushi district along with the M-16 rifle and the bullets.

The search of the Oroku site was halted after the rockets were found buried among other military goods piled in the house, police said. They wrapped the rockets with blankets and secured them to avoid jarring them.

They planned to hold an emergency meeting with the city government and nearby residents Friday night to discuss measures concerning the removal of the weapons. The U.S. military was expected to remove the rockets placed on the deck on Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, officers finished a five-day search of Tamura’s Gushi home.

On Thursday, police found four portable launchers for U.S. Army antitank rockets and about 20 grams of explosives in Tamura’s home. That is when they also found the U.S. military issue M-1 carbine rifle, about 50 M-1 rounds and 50 empty magazines.

Tamura allegedly stored his collection of weapons at the rented house after he ran out of storage space.

Police said more than 50 metal pieces found at the scene of Sunday’s explosion — a materials storage site in Okinawa city — included fragments of the same type of antitank rockets found at Tamura’s home in Gushi.

Police said earlier they are almost certain Tamura died in an antitank rocket explosion.

They believe he was collecting the military goods intending to sell them. Investigators are trying to determine how he obtained the arsenal.

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