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7 killed in Japan knife attack

THE WORLD

'I am tired of the world,' a 25-year-old man tells police after the rampage in Tokyo's Akihabara district.

June 09, 2008|Bruce Wallace | Times Staff Writer

TOKYO — A lone attacker rammed a truck into pedestrians, then slashed his way with a survival knife through Sunday shopping crowds in one of Tokyo's most popular neighborhoods, killing seven people and wounding 10.

Police quoted Tomohiro Kato, 25, as saying he came to the Akihabara district, a canyon of computer and electronics stores, vowing to "kill people."

"I am tired of the world," the part-time worker in an auto parts plant reportedly told police after his arrest. "Anyone was OK."

Kato reportedly drove a rented 2-ton truck from his hometown of Susono, about 60 miles southwest of Tokyo, arriving in Akihabara around noon. The area, renowned as the center of Japan's anime and manga culture, is particularly clogged with shoppers on Sundays when its streets are closed to vehicles for "Pedestrian Paradise Day."

The assailant plowed the truck through a major intersection, knocking down at least three people before striking a taxi and stopping. Witnesses said the attacker then fled the damaged vehicle, furiously stabbing one of the injured pedestrians and a policeman who came to the aid of the victims.

He then bolted down a side street, stabbing others as he went and triggering confusion as thousands of shoppers surged to either escape the rampage or to get a closer look. Television footage showed the intersection littered with sneakers and bloody clothing.

The dead were six men ages 19 to 74 and a 21-year-old woman. A policeman ended the frenzy by knocking the knife from the attacker's hands with a nightstick. But the assailant did not surrender until the officer drew his gun. Video posted on Japanese websites showed a man identified as Kato, wearing a black T-shirt under a white suit and bleeding slightly from a head wound, with his hands raised. It then showed the policeman pushing him into a fetal position against a wall and sitting on his legs while using his radio to call for help.

Japan's recorded murder rate remains extremely low, but the country has been unsettled by other recent knife attacks. A 16-year-old boy attacked shoppers with knives in Tokyo in January, injuring two. In March, a man already wanted on murder charges stabbed eight people, killing one, outside a mall in Ibaraki prefecture north of the capital. Both are in custody.

Akihabara is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan, attracting those who are obsessed with video games, animated characters and cafes where young women dressed in maid uniforms serve coffee and conversation to young men.

The nature of the neighborhood ensured the killings received blanket media attention, spawning almost instant video images and blog reports.

Japanese media also reported they had discovered anonymous postings on a cellphone network bulletin board from someone vowing to "kill people in Akihabara." The person reportedly posted a series of messages leading up to the attack. The last entry was posted just after noon.

"It's time," it read.

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bruce.wallace@latimes.com

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