Two people have died and 16 others, including more than a dozen schoolgirls, have been injured after a man armed with at least one knife went on a stabbing rampage at a crowded bus stop near Tokyo on Tuesday morning.
Japanese media said a 12-year-old girl and man aged 39 had died in hospital from their injuries. The attacker, a 57-year-old man, also died after reportedly stabbing himself following the attack near a park in the city of Kawasaki, south of the capital.
Two girls and a woman in her 40s are being treated for serious injuries, Kyodo news agency said.
The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, voiced “strong anger” over the attack and asked his education minister to ensure that children were safe when travelling to and from school.
The 13 injured children, believed to be girls aged from six to 12, are reportedly pupils at Caritas primary school and were waiting for a bus when the the suspect launched his attack.
The suspected attacker fell unconscious after stabbing himself in the neck and later died, reports said. Police have not named the man and it was not clear if they had established a motive before he died.
Donald Trump, who is in Japan on a state visit, said he and the first lady, Melania, sent their “prayers and sympathy” to the victims. “All Americans stand with the people of Japan and grieve for the victims and for their families,” Trump said during a visit to a naval base near Tokyo.
Media reports said the attack began at about 7.45am near a bus stop at Noborito station in Kawasaki. Police found two knives nearby.
A local man told Agence France-Presse that he went outside after hearing screams. “It’s hard to describe what it was like, how it sounded. It wasn’t girls having fun, it was a sound that was absolutely not normal,” he said.
“I saw a man lying on the street. I also saw a girl hunched over on the ground. There were also five or six girls, maybe they were the ones who screamed … There was blood all over them.”
Staff at Caritas, a private Catholic school, have yet to confirm whether its pupils are among the victims.
NHK quoted witnesses as saying the suspect was holding a knife in each hand and began stabbing his victims as they waited to board a bus. Kyodo said the suspect, who had short hair and was wearing glasses, shouted that he was “going to kill” the children.
TV networks showed live footage of multiple police cars, ambulances and fire engines at the scene. Emergency medical tents were put up to treat the injured.
“I heard the sound of lots of ambulances and I saw a man lying near a bus stop bleeding,” a witness told NHK.
“There is another bus stop near the primary school and I also saw schoolchildren lying on the ground … It’s a quiet neighbourhood, it’s scary to see this kind of thing happen,” he added.
Japan has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the developed world. Mass attacks are rare, but it has experienced sporadic, and deadly, attacks involving knives.
In 2016, a man who claimed he wanted to kill people with disabilities killed 19 people and injured 26 others in a knife attack at a care facility near Tokyo.
In 2001, eight children died and 19 other were injured when a man forced his way into a primary school and began a frenzied knife attack.
In 2008, seven people were killed by a man who slammed a truck into a crowd of people in central Tokyo’s Akihabara district and then stabbed passers-by.