Pedestrians injured as van ‘deliberately’ driven into New Year crowd in Tokyo

03 January, 2019, 00:15 | Author: Lucy Floyd
  • Police officers stand next to a car that plowed into pedestrians in Tokyo Japan Jan. 1 2019

He also had a tank of kerosene in the rental auto, which he planned to use to light the vehicle on fire.

Police spokesman Satoshi Mishima said a 21-year-old man had been arrested, but said police were still investigating the precise motives behind the attack. He had been driving a rental auto with an Osaka license plate, Kyodo reported.

One eyewitness told public broadcaster NHK of witnessing a "ghastly scene" with people collapsing on the street.

Investigative sources quoted the man as allegedly saying he had perpetrated an act of terrorism "in retaliation for an execution" and "would not make any excuses" for his actions.

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The man was also carrying kerosene in his auto, police said. It was not immediately clear whether he was referring to a specific execution or Japan's system of capital punishment.

In 2018, Japan executed 15 people, matching the highest-ever figure met in 2008 since the Japanese government resumed the death penalty in 1993.

A policeman (R) stands next to a roped-off crime scene after a man drove into the crowd on New Year's Eve on Takeshita Street in Tokyo's fashion district of Harajuku.

According to local media, Kusakabe hit a total of eight people and assaulted another on the street, which was closed to traffic for the New Year celebrations.

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Instead, Japanese people tend to see in the New Year with families and go to the shrine to pray for good fortune in the year to come. "This is a place I'm familiar with, so it's very shocking", Tatsuhiro Yaegashi, a 27-year-old worker in the area, said according to Reuters. Media also reported that the driver eluded arrest for around 20 minutes before police caught him.

Police and riot police were called to the scene.

NHK footage showed a small box vehicle with asmashed front and paramedics carrying people on stretchers into ambulances.

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