A 7.62 mm rifle, a handgun and their empty ammunition clips have gone missing from the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Kusu garrison in Oita Prefecture.

GSDF personnel were searching for the missing weapons Saturday in what officials said was the first-ever case of guns being reported missing from a GSDF armory.

The officials said the guns and the clips were not loaded.

The incident is likely to draw public criticism of the internal management of the Self-Defense Forces, combined with an incident Tuesday in which 10 rounds of 20 mm ammunition was accidentally fired from a Maritime Self-Defense Forces ship toward land in Aomori Prefecture. The bullets hit some trees and no one was injured.

According to the Ground Staff Office, the GSDF learned about the missing weapons when several officers inspected the armory that belongs to the 4th Tank Battalion at around 4:45 p.m. Friday. A set of binoculars was also missing, the office said.

There was no sign the armory’s lock had been tampered with and there were no signs of an intruder, it said.

The garrison has about 680 personnel.

Unlike other units, the tank unit does not inspect the armory every day because it has fewer opportunities to use rifles and other weapons during drills.

The GSDF police affairs unit is questioning battalion members to determine when the last inspection took place and other details.

“We are truly sorry for causing anxiety among the public,” said Tsutomu Mori, the GSDF’s chief of staff.

“We will do our best to find the missing weapons and prevent the recurrence of a similar incident,” he said.

Iraq team returns

A team of about 100 Ground Self-Defense Force personnel returned Saturday to Japan after assisting the withdrawal of troops deployed to the southern Iraqi city of Samawah.

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