June 9, 2008 in Nation/World

7 dead in Tokyo stabbing rampage

Blaine Harden Washington Post
Pedestrian photo via Kyodo News photo

In this image taken by an anonymous pedestrian, Tomohiro Kato is detained by police officers Sunday. Pedestrian photo via Kyodo News
(Full-size photo)

TOKYO – Screaming as he randomly stabbed shoppers with a hunting knife, a man killed seven people and injured 11 others at lunchtime Sunday in a Tokyo retail district.

Tomohiro Kato, 25, drove a white, two-ton rental truck into a crowd of pedestrians, running over at least three people and then emerging from the truck with a large knife, according to police officers and witnesses.

Indiscriminately slashing and stabbing as he went, the assailant then ran and walked through the center of the Akihabara neighborhood, where thousands of young men from Japan and around the world gather for electronic gadgets and comic books, computer games and nerdy fellowship.

“I am tired of life,” police said Kato told them later. “I came to Akihabara to kill people. It didn’t matter who they were. I came alone.”

Japan is one of the safest countries in the world when it comes to violent crime. Strict gun-control laws make it difficult for most Japanese to own handguns.

But this year, there have already been two stabbing sprees in crowded shopping districts, injuring a total of 10 people and killing one. Sunday’s rampage occurred on the seventh anniversary of an infamous stabbing incident near Osaka, where a man killed eight children and injured 15 others. He was later executed.

Akihabara, a neon-lighted temple for high-tech consumerism and for magazines and comics that cater to adolescent fantasies, looked liked a war zone just after the attack, with puddles of blood and random shoes on the pavement.

There was a frenzy of lights, sirens and ambulances, as paramedics scooped up the wounded and sped them away to hospitals.

As always on Sundays, the main street in Akihabara was closed to traffic. When the rental truck barreled into the street, the area was crowded with pedestrians. Kato quickly got out of the truck with the knife and headed directly for one of the people he had run over, witnesses told reporters.

Kato “jumped on top of a man he had hit with his vehicle and stabbed him with a knife many times,” one man told the Kyodo news agency.

Six of the seven killed were men, police said. They ranged in age from 19 to 74, but most were younger than 35. A 21-year-old woman was also killed.

Kato, wearing a white jacket and a black T-shirt, screamed and grunted as he stabbed people, according to witnesses, some of whom said he appeared to be mentally disturbed. He lives alone in a studio apartment in Susono City, near Mount Fuji southwest of Tokyo, the national broadcaster NHK reported.

After Kato had stabbed several people, a traffic policeman approached him in the street and tried to talk to him, according to news accounts. Kato allegedly stabbed the officer several times, screamed and ran off.

A policeman confronted him with a nightstick, and they fenced with their respective weapons, according to NHK. When the policeman pulled out his pistol and said he would shoot, NHK said, Kato dropped the knife and was tackled by police.

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