June 10, 2008

Akihabara stabbing spree shocks Japan

The suspect in a stabbing spree that left seven people dead in Tokyo's Akihabara electric town on Sunday had posted an advance notice about his plans for the crime on a mobile phone site just hours before the rampage, police said.

TOKYO (AP) -- A man plowed into shoppers with a truck and then stabbed 17 people within minutes, killing at least seven of them in a grisly attack that shocked a country known for its low crime rate.

The lunchtime violence Sunday in the Akihabara district, a popular electronics and video game area, sent thousands of people fleeing.

The assault, which occurred on the seventh anniversary of a mass stabbing at a Japanese elementary school, was the latest in a series of knife attacks that have stoked fears of rising violent crime in Japan.

A 25-year-old man, Tomohiro Kato, was arrested with blood on his face.

"The suspect told police that he came to Akihabara to kill people," said Jiro Akaogi, a spokesman for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.

"He said he was tired of life. He said he was sick of everything," Akaogi said.

The violence began when a man crashed a rented two-ton truck into pedestrians. He then jumped out and began stabbing the people he had knocked down with the truck before turning on horrified onlookers, police said.

Police confirmed the deaths of six men and one woman, but could not say whether they died of injuries from the truck or stabbing.

Reports said the attacker grunted and roared as he slashed and stabbed at shoppers crowding a street lined with huge stores packed with the latest in computers, electronics, videos and games.

"He was screaming as he was stabbing people at random," a male witness told national broadcaster NHK.

Amateur video showed police overpowering the bloodied suspect.

The attack paralyzed the district known as Electric Town. Amateur video taken five minutes after the rampage showed shoppers helping victims and a man screaming, "Ambulance, Ambulance!"

At least 17 ambulances rushed to the scene, and rescue workers feverishly tended to victims in the blood-pooled street.

As night fell, a bouquet of flowers, bottles of green tea and incense sticks had been placed at the site.

Japan's crime rate is low compared to other industrialized nations and Tokyo, with 12.7 million people, is considered relatively safe. But stabbings, once rare in the country, have become more frequent in recent years.

In March, one person was stabbed to death and at least seven others were hurt by a man with two knives outside a shopping mall in eastern Japan. In January a 16-year-old boy attacked five people in a shopping area, injuring two.