KAWASAKI: A knife-wielding attacker killed a 12-year-old schoolgirl and a man before stabbing himself to death in a rampage outside Tokyo on Tuesday (May 28) that also left more than a dozen injured, including several children.
The attacker, a man in his 50s who has yet to be identified, crept up behind a group of children at the bus stop and slashed randomly at them before fatally stabbing himself in the neck.
Police said an 11-year-old schoolgirl named Hanako Kuribayashi and a 39-year-old parent, identified as government official Satoshi Oyama, died in the attack.
Seventeen more people, mainly young children, were injured, according to authorities who had previously given the schoolgirl's age as 12.
Koji Shimazu of the St Marianna University School of Medicine, told AFP that one woman in her 40s and three schoolgirls had to undergo surgery for knife wounds to the head and neck.
"It is a very harrowing case. I feel strong anger," Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in televised remarks.
"I offer my heartfelt condolences to the victims and hope the injured recover quickly."
According to local media, eyewitnesses saw a middle-aged man clasping a knife near the bus stop where the children were waiting, shouting "I will kill you".
A local man living nearby, who identified himself as Matsumoto, 25, said he went outside after hearing screams.
"It's hard to describe what it was like, how it sounded. It wasn't girls having fun, it was a sound that was absolutely not normal," he told AFP.
"I saw a man lying on the street. I also saw a girl hunched over on the ground. There were also five or six girls, maybe they were the ones who screamed ... There was blood all over them."
'PRAYERS AND SYMPATHY'
The attack occurred during the busy early morning commute as workers headed to their offices and children to school. Fire department officials said they received the first emergency calls shortly before 8am local time.
The scene of the attack was still swarming with emergency personnel hours later, with three police vans parked around the spot to block it from view.
Emergency workers set up an orange medical tent to treat the wounded, and ambulances and fire engines were parked nearby.
Teiko Naito, principal of the school's elementary section, said in an emotional, televised news conference: "A man carrying knives in his both hands came from a convenience store and slashed children in the queue one-by-one."
The director of Caritas Gakuen, Teturo Saito, said 18 of her pupils were involved.
"The grief is very great. I sincerely pray for those who died and hope the injured recover quickly ... The students now have deep pain in their soul. We will do our best to offer mental healthcare," Saito said.
The bloodshed came as Donald Trump wrapped up a state visit to Japan, and the US president offered his "prayers and sympathy" to the victims as he met troops outside Tokyo.
Standing aboard a Japanese military ship, he said that "all Americans stand with the people of Japan and grieve for the victims and for their families".
A local resident, who declined to give his name, said children attending the Caritas school lined up for the bus at the site every day.
"If you live in this neighbourhood, everybody knows that these kids are there," the 66-year-old told AFP.
"I've been in this area for a long time, I cannot believe that somebody targeted this bus and targeted these small children."
Police earlier told AFP one suspect had been detained and an eyewitness told local media that the man had stabbed himself.
"I saw a man holding a knife ... I couldn't see clearly, but he apparently stabbed himself in the neck," one eyewitness told NHK.
The broadcaster said two knives were spotted at the scene, but there was no immediate confirmation.
Violent crime is extremely rare in Japan, and children often travel to and from schools alone.
The country has famously strict gun control regulations and gun crime is unusual, but there have been a few high-profile stabbing attacks.
In 2018, a man was arrested in central Japan after stabbing one person to death and injuring two others aboard a bullet train, an attack that prompted new security measures on the famed rail service.
And in 2016, a man stabbed 19 people to death at a disability centre south of Tokyo in what he described as a mission to rid the world of people with mental illness.