TOKYO – Two people have died and 17 others were injured after a man armed with at least one knife attacked a group of schoolchildren outside a bus stop in Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, on Tuesday morning.
The alleged perpetrator, a 51-year-old man, attacked the children using knives in both hands while they were waiting to board a bus to their school, a private Catholic institution, the local police said.
An 11-year-old girl, Hanako Kuribayashi, and Satoshi Oyama – a 39-year-old foreign ministry employee and father of one of the schoolchildren – died, according to local authorities. Oyama’s daughter remained unharmed.
The suspect also died – of self-inflicted injuries – at a local hospital.
Four of the injured – three six-year-old girls and a 40-year-old woman – are in a critical condition, according to public broadcaster NHK.
The motives behind the incident, which was carried out near a park in Kawasaki’s Noborito area at 7:45 am, are not yet known.
According to eyewitnesses cited by local news agency Kyodo, the suspect had approached the children while yelling “I’m going to kill you.”
The driver of a bus set to take the children to school said that he got down from the vehicle after seeing pools of blood and a man sprawled on the ground.
According to witnesses, the alleged perpetrator stabbed himself in the neck and was found unconscious at the scene of the crime, from where the police have reportedly recovered knives.
The man is thought to be a resident of Kawasaki, although he has not yet been identified.
The Caritas elementary school – where many of the children at the bus stop are understood to be students – and other nearby schools canceled their classes for Tuesday. After the Caritas school’s administration held a meeting with students’ parents, it decided to cancel all classes for the rest of the week.
The incident has sent shockwaves across the country, which is known for its safety and where children of very young ages often go to school on their own.
The incident came on a day when the president of the United States Donald Trump concluded his four-day official visit to Japan, having met Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his stay.
Trump offered his condolences and support to the victims and their families during a speech at the Yokosuka naval base south of Tokyo hours before he was set to leave.
Abe told reporters he was “outraged” by the incident and ordered ministers and authorities to ensure the safety of all schoolchildren, NHK reported.
Although Japan has one of the lowest crime and murder rates in the world, Tuesday’s attack brought back memories of others carried out in recent years.
In 2001, a man entered a school in Osaka with a knife and killed eight children and injured 15 other people.
In 2008, a man drove into a crowd with a truck before stabbing pedestrians at Tokyo’s crowded Akihabara district, killing seven people and injuring 10.
In 2016, a former employee of a care center for the differently abled in Tokyo entered the facility at night and stabbed 19 inmates to death and injured 26.