Nagano: Rare gun and knife attack in Japan leaves four dead

  • By Shaimaa Khalil and James FitzGerald
  • BBC News, Tokyo and London

image source, Getty Images

caption image,

Police officers stand guard at the scene of a standoff following Wednesday’s attack

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 police officers with a shotgun in Nagano Prefecture. A fourth death was later confirmed.

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

The shooting of multiple police officers is even rarer, the last incident taking place more than 30 years ago.

In Thursday’s incident, police received a call at around 4:25 pm (07:25 GMT) about a man who had chased and then stabbed a woman, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.

An eyewitness who worked in a nearby field told Kyodo that the man’s attack on his first victim was carried out with a knife about a foot 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 – reportedly wearing a camo uniform, hat, sunglasses and mask – allegedly then shot police officers responding to the emergency.

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

Aoki later barricaded himself in his father’s home in a quiet residential area of ‚Äč‚ÄčNakano town for nearly 12 hours, along with his mother and aunt. His father, Masamichi Aoki, is the speaker of the Nakano City Assembly.

NHK footage showed police vehicles and ambulances near the home. Police officers wearing body armor and carrying shields formed a 300m exclusion zone around the house.

Hours later, the suspect’s mother and aunt were seen fleeing the house, Japanese media reported. The suspect left the house early Friday morning and was arrested.

Local media reported that Mr. Aoki was a grape farmer who owned an ice cream shop nearby.

Residents were urged to stay home through email announcements and on the neighborhood loudspeaker, while police also went door to door.

Later in the evening, local media broadcast footage of gunfire heard just after 8 p.m. local time (11 a.m. GMT) on Thursday.

Some residents had to spend the night elsewhere, while the local school would close. But after the arrest, people were told to go ahead.

A man in his 50s told NHK, “It’s sad that something like this happened in my neighborhood. I couldn’t sleep all night.”

Japanese social media users took to Twitter to react with shock and alarm at the incident, with one calling it an “unforgivable crime”.

Another user wondered if the country should be prepared for more attacks like this.

Police say the suspect had a gun permit.

Japan has strict gun ownership rules and only allows civilians to own shotguns and air rifles. People have to pass a strict exam and mental health tests in order to buy a gun in Japan.

The last incident in which multiple police officers were killed occurred in 1990, when two officers were shot by gang members in Okinawa Prefecture.

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

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

Additional reporting by Derek Cai and Hideharu Tamura.

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