Japanese University Hospitals Receive Bomb Threats

TOKYO -- Major university hospitals in Tokyo have received a barrage of bomb threats linked to demands that medical schools increase their admissions, a news report and authorities said Monday.

No explosives have been found so far at 11 hospitals targeted, Kyodo News agency said. Tokyo Metropolitan Police would only confirm that 11 locations had received such threats, but refused to identify them or provide other details.

The reported threats come as police have bolstered their presence in train stations and other public places during the campaign for parliamentary elections next week. An anonymous bomb threat last week forced the evacuation of an airliner in northern Japan.

The letters said the bomb attacks would come within 45 days, and at least some of the threats also criticized universities for not accepting enough applicants to their medical schools, Kyodo News agency said.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with official practice, confirmed a link between the school admissions and the bomb threats, adding that the letters were similarly phrased and appeared to come from the same author or authors.

"Unless the number of admissions to medical schools is doubled next year, there will be a large-scale terrorist attack," Kyodo quoted a typical letter as saying.

It was not clear whether the writers were threatening to attack the hospitals or whether they had other targets in mind, the report said.

Several neighborhood police stations confirmed that specific hospitals in their jurisdiction had received threats. One officer said on condition of anonymity that more than 20 hospitals had received such letters.

One of the recipients, Keio University Hospital, received a Sept. 1 letter warning of a "large-scale terrorist attack," said hospital spokesman Nobuo Kuroda.

The letter did not specify targets or what kind of attack it would be, Kuroda said. Police have increased security in and around the hospital, he added.

Last Monday, Sendai airport closed a runway and aborted the takeoff of a plane after an unidentified caller claimed to have planted a bomb there.

The male caller said he had put a bomb in the luggage on a Japan Airlines flight from Sendai, 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Tokyo.

The plane, carrying 49 passengers and five crew members, was evacuated, but no explosives were found aboard.

Two weeks ago, The Financial Times reported that France's top anti-terror judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, said there were indications that al-Qaida may be targeting an Asian financial center and that several Asian countries were less prepared than the United States or Europe.

In response, Japanese officials insisted that the country - home to the world's second-largest economy - was not unprepared.

Reports last year said that Lionel Dumont, a French citizen with suspected links to al-Qaida and a history of violent crime, had repeatedly entered Japan on a fake passport.

Dumont, who is imprisoned in France, was reportedly trying to set up a terror cell when he lived in northern Japan undisturbed in 2002 and 2003.

(c) Associated Press

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