Nine people were hurt, one seriously, when a man deliberately plowed his vehicle into crowds celebrating New Year’s Eve along a famous Tokyo street, police and media said yesterday.
With an “intent to murder,” a man identified as 21-year-old Kazuhiro Kusakabe drove a small vehicle into Takeshita Street in Tokyo’s fashion district of Harajuku at 10 minutes past midnight, a police spokesman said.
Japan Broadcasting Corp (NHK) reported that Kusakabe told police he was acting in “retribution for the death penalty” without giving more precise details.
NHK footage showed a small box vehicle with a smashed front and paramedics carrying people on stretchers into ambulances.
A container with kerosene inside was found inside the rental vehicle, local media said.
The attacker, who reportedly drove the vehicle from Osaka, has told investigators that he planned to burn the vehicle, private network Fuji TV reported.
One witness told NHK it was a “ghastly scene.”
“I saw some guys collapsed on the street. As I walked closer toward the scene, many more people had fallen on the ground. By the time I reached the exact place, paramedics were already there helping people,” he said.
Police immediately cordoned off the street, which during the day is packed with tourists trying to get a taste of Japan’s extravagant youth and food culture.
One college student sustained serious injuries during the attack and was undergoing surgery, the police spokesman said.
Local media reported that the student was in a coma.
Kusakabe was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, police said.
Kusakabe hit a total of eight people and assaulted another on the street, which was closed to traffic for the New Year celebrations, local media reported.
The vehicle hit its first victim about 30m into the narrow street before knocking down seven more over the next 100m, the Sankei Shimbun reported.
He then fled on foot, but police caught him at a local park soon after, local media said.
There was no information so far to suggest that foreign tourists were among the injured, the police spokesman said.
Officers were investigating whether the suspect is fit for trial, TV Asahi said.
Unlike in other major cities, New Year’s Eve in Tokyo is a relatively muted affair. There is no major fireworks display and no central point where revelers gather to see in the year.
Instead, Japanese tend to spend the day with family and go to a shrine to pray for good fortune in the year to come.
By midday yesterday, hundreds of thousands of tourists had returned to the street filled with bright pink ornaments, although blue tarpaulins covering the scene of the attack remained.
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