Japanese police have made five arrests of suspects thought to be linked to an alleged senior member of the al-Qaida terrorist network. Police Wednesday say raids on 10 locations in Japan yielded the arrest of men from India, Mali and Bangladesh - all with suspected terrorist links.
Japanese media quote investigators as saying the raids and arrests are part of an investigation into what may be the first known al-Qaida terrorist cell in Japan. Three of the men face charges related to violations of Japanese immigration laws. One Bangladeshi, police say, is accused of falsifying documents.
The arrests come as Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda says the government has information that an individual linked to al-Qaida had contacts with various people in Japan and was engaged in certain activities. He did not elaborate.
Professor Shuji Hosoda of Waseda University's Institute of Islamic Sciences, disputes the likelihood of the men arrested being part of a Japan-based Islamic terrorist cell. "There is only a small Muslim community in Japan. So it is very difficult for the foreign Muslims doing the terrorist attack in Japan or planning or getting the weapons, explosives," he says. "This is very difficult in Japan."
The police crackdown here was prompted by the revelation earlier this month that a French national arrested for murder in Germany in December had lived in Japan until last September.
Media reports here have said the man, Lionel Dumont, has been identified by authorities as a senior logistical officer of the al-Qaida terrorist network. He repeatedly entered Japan using a fake French passport. Some of Dumont's acquaintances told Japanese reporters on Wednesday that he was a devout Muslim but they knew of no links to Islamic terrorists.
French authorities say Dumont belonged to a violent gang in northern France, which is suspected of cooperation with Islamic radicals. He was convicted of numerous violent crimes by a French court in absentia in 2001 and sentenced to life in prison.
Dumont escaped a Bosnian prison after being convicted in the killing of a police officer and sentenced to 20 years. Dumont was extradited from Germany to France last week.
The Dumont case has increased concern here that Japan, as a strong supporter of the U.S. led military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, could be the target of a terrorist attack.