Thousands of Japan police in manhunt for rape suspect: Reports

TOKYO (AFP) - A massive manhunt was underway in Japan on Wednesday with 4,000 police officers, 850 vehicles, sniffer dogs, helicopters and boats scouring a port city for an escaped rape suspect, reports said.

Mr Yuta Sugimoto, 20, was being questioned over claims he was part of a gang that raped and robbed a woman on the streets of Kawasaki, just south of Tokyo, on Jan 2.

He slipped away from his guard during a visit to prosecutors in an office building on Tuesday, the day after he and another man were arrested.

Police in the area mounted the massive operation when the alarm was raised, flooding the streets with thousands of officers and a huge amount of equipment, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported.

Local schools instructed students not to venture out alone, reports said.

"It is frightening that he is still on the run," one mother of an elementary school child told Fuji TV.

Violent crime is rare in Japan and incidents of this kind receive heavy media coverage.

Local police were unavailable to confirm the reports.

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