Knife rampage on Japan buses leaves 13 wounded

ATTACK::A man slashed five passengers and punched others, while some were injured fleeing the scene at a time when violent crime in Japan is at a post-war low


Sat, Dec 18, 2010 - Page 5

A Japanese man with a knife went on a rampage on two packed buses yesterday and wounded 13 people, mostly teenage school children, by slashing and beating them and sparking a panicked stampede.

Police said they had arrested 27-year-old unemployed Yuta Saito after the attacks during the morning rush hour outside Toride railway station, about 40km northeast of Tokyo.

“The suspect got onto the buses and wielded a knife and slashed passengers,” a local police spokesman said after the bloody attack with what media reports said was a 25cm kitchen knife.

Passengers subdued the attacker, who also sustained some injuries.

“I wanted to end my life,” he was later quoted as saying by broadcaster NHK.

The knife attack in Japan, where violent crime is rare, evoked memories of a far bloodier stabbing spree in 2008 when a man killed seven people in Tokyo, running over three with a truck and stabbing four to death.

Yesterday morning’s attacks left 13 people wounded, none with life-threatening injuries. Among the victims were seven girls and four boys from junior high and high schools and two women aged 49 and 59, reports said.

The man slashed at least five passengers, a local fire department official said. He punched others and triggered a panicked flight from the buses that left the remaining victims injured.

“People screamed: ‘Run! A man with a knife is getting in.’ I was scared, so scared,” one woman said, speaking on television.

Another woman said: “There was an uproar. High school students were running out, and I saw a schoolboy bleeding from his forehead.”

The driver of the first bus that was attacked told NHK: “There were about 50 passengers on the bus when the man entered. First, I thought it was a fight among students. But then I heard a scream and I thought this isn’t normal. I saw the man wielding a knife, and I quickly opened the door to let the students flee. That’s all I could do.”

The attacks stunned the local community in Ibaraki Prefecture.

“It’s an unforgivable act,” said Kenji Takezawa, deputy principal of Edogawa Gakuen school, some of whose students were among the victims.

“We gathered our students in our hall and told them to stay calm,” he said, adding that all afternoon classes were canceled.

The National Police Agency said this week that the number of criminal cases detected by police this year looks set to total below 1.6 million for the first time in 23 years, Kyodo News reported.

Murders, attempted murders and conspiracy to murder are on track to hit a new post-war low this year, with 988 cases reported by the end of last month, down 2.8 percent from last year, the report said.