From: Reuters
Published March 22, 2008 12:08 AM

U.S. navy nabs sailor; hints of link to Japan murder

TOKYO (Reuters) - The U.S. navy took a sailor into custody early Saturday in Tokyo on the charge of desertion, the U.S. Naval Forces Japan said.

Japanese and U.S. investigators had been looking for a U.S. serviceman whose credit card was believed to have been found in a taxi in which a Japanese taxi driver was killed this week.

The incident comes a day ahead of a planned rally on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, where the bulk of U.S. military in the country are based, to protest against crimes by American service personnel following the arrest of a Marine on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old school girl.

The sailor taken into custody on Saturday has not been named as a suspect in the murder of the taxi driver, but may have information regarding the murder, the U.S. Navy said in a statement.

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A 61-year-old taxi driver was found dead in his taxi with stab wounds in his neck on Wednesday evening, according to the Kanagawa prefectural police, south of Tokyo.

The U.S. navy said that the name of the sailor will be withheld until further notice due to privacy issues, and it will continue to cooperate with Japanese law enforcement officials in this case.

Police sources have said a credit card which apparently belonged to a crew member of the U.S. 7th Fleet's Aegis-equipped cruiser based in Yokosuka had been found in the taxi.

The sources have said the U.S. serviceman, whose identity was withheld, had been missing for "several weeks."

Japan is host to about 50,000 U.S. military personnel as part of the U.S.-Japan security alliance, but friction often occurs with local communities near the bases because of concern about crime, accidents and noise.

(Reporting by Aiko Hayashi; Editing by David Fox)

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