Rare Gun and Knife Attack in Japan Leaves Four Dead

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By Shaimaa Khalil and James FitzGerald

BBC News, Tokyo and London

A man has been arrested after four people were killed in a rare shooting and stabbing attack in Japan.

The alleged assailant stabbed a woman and shot two policemen with a hunting rifle in Nagano prefecture. A fourth death was later confirmed.

Police have named the suspect as Masanori Aoki, the 31-year-old son of a local politician.

Gun violence remains extremely rare in Japan, despite the killing of ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July last year.

Shootings of multiple police officers are even rarer, with the last incident taking place more than 30 years ago.

In Thursday’s incident, police received a call at around 16:25 (07:25 GMT) about a man who had chased and then stabbed a woman, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo.

An eyewitness working in a nearby field told Kyodo that the man’s attack on his first victim had been carried out with a blade around 30cm (1ft) long.

His motive is not clear. When the witness asked the suspect why he had stabbed the woman, he is said to have replied: “I killed her because I wanted to.”

Mr Aoki – who was reportedly wearing a camouflage uniform, a hat, sunglasses and a mask – then allegedly shot police officers who responded to the emergency.

It was not immediately clear how the fourth person – described as an elderly woman – had died.

Mr Aoki later barricaded himself for nearly 12 hours inside his father’s home in a quiet residential area of Nakano city, together with his mother and aunt. His father, Masamichi Aoki, is the speaker of Nakano city’s assembly.

Footage from NHK showed police vehicles and ambulances near the home. Police officers wearing body armour and carrying shields formed a 300m (328 yards) exclusion zone around the house.

Hours later, the suspect’s mother and aunt were seen fleeing from the house, reported Japanese media. The suspect stepped out of the house early on Friday morning and was detained.

Local media reported that Mr Aoki was a grape farmer who owned a gelato shop in the neighbourhood.

Residents were urged to stay at home via email announcements and on the neighbourhood loudspeaker, while police also went door to door.

Later in the evening, local media aired footage of gunshots being heard just after 20:00 local time (11:00 GMT) on Thursday.

Some residents had to spend the night elsewhere, while the local school was set to close. But after the arrest, people were told they could go about their day.

A man in his 50s told NHK: “It’s sad something like this happened in my neighbourhood. I could not sleep all night.”

Japanese social media users have expressed shock and alarm at the incident on Twitter, with one calling this an “unforgiveable crime”.

Another user questioned if the country needs to be prepared for more attacks like these to happen.

Officials said the suspect had a firearm permit.

Japan has strict gun ownership rules, and only allows civilians to own hunting rifles and airguns. People have to undergo a strict exam and mental health tests in order to buy a gun in Japan.

The last incident where multiple police officers were killed took place in 1990, when two officers were shot by gang members in Okinawa prefecture.

Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and his death profoundly shocked a country where handguns are banned and incidents of political violence are almost unheard of.

In 2014, there were just six incidents of gun deaths in Japan, compared with 33,599 in the US.

Source: BBC News