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U.S. military children arrested in Japan

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Suspects range in age from 15 to 18 years of age
  • They are accused of stringing a rope between poles across a road
  • A restaurant employee, 23, received a severe head injury
  • Incident occurred in August, follows other crimes connected to U.S. military personnel

Tokyo, Japan (CNN) -- Four American teenagers, all children of U.S. military personnel, have been arrested on charges of attempted murder after a woman was knocked off her motorbike with rope strung across two poles, Japanese police said.

The four suspects -- two 15-year-old boys, a 17-year-old girl and an 18-year-old man -- were taken into custody on Saturday, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department said.

They are accused of causing a severe head injury to a 23-year-old restaurant employee by stringing a rope between poles across a road.

U.S. Forces Japan was informed of the August incident in late October, a public information officer said. There was no clear explanation for the delay in the handover of the suspects to police, other than it involved rules between Washington and Tokyo covering U.S. forces and their dependents in Japan.

The U.S. military presence and its impact on Japanese residents have been a thorny issue over the years.

Most recently, residents of the Japanese island of Okinawa, where the U.S. maintains a large military presence, have blamed American troops for crime and noise.

In 2008, a 14-year-old Okinawa girl alleged that a Marine had raped her. The prosecutor released the Marine after the girl decided not to pursue charges. In 1995, a 12-year-old girl was gang-raped by three servicemen. A Japanese court convicted all three men.

Both incidents caused a furor in Japan. Then-Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda called the 2008 incident "unforgivable ... It has happened over and over again in the past and I take it as a grave case."

It is unclear what, if any, role the military can take in the case. The 1960 Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Japan gives Japan jurisdiction over "the members of the United States armed forces, the civilian component, and their dependents" in cases of offenses committed in Japan and punishable under Japanese law.

The agreement also says the United States must cooperate in investigating such offenses.

CNN's Kyung Lah and Yoko Wakatsuki contributed to this report.

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