Japan knife attack: At least 19 dead, 26 injured

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SAGAMIHARA, Japan — At least 19 people were killed and 26 injured in a stabbing spree at a facility for the mentally disabled west of Tokyo, making it one of Japan’s deadliest mass killings since World War II.

Police officers stand guard near the Tsukui Yamayuri En care centre where a knife-wielding man went on a rampage in the city of Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture, some 50 kms (30 miles) west of Tokyo on July 26, 2016. (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)

Police officers stand guard near the Tsukui Yamayuri En care centre where a knife-wielding man went on a rampage in the city of Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture, some 50 kms (30 miles) west of Tokyo on Tuesday.
(AFP/Getty Images)

Nine men and 10 women, ranging in age from 18 to 70, were killed in the attack, Sagamihara fire department Officer Satomi Kurihara said.  The attack happened at the Tsukui Yamayurien facility in Sagamihara, a residential area approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of the capital.

Officials identified the attacker as Satoshi Uematsu, a 26-year-old who worked at the facility until February. Uematsu broke in through a window about 2 a.m. Tuesday, Kanagawa Prefecture officials said at a news conference.

Of the 26 injured, 13 are “severely” hurt, according to a local fire official. Ten suffered moderate injuries and the remaining three minor injuries. They are being treated in a number of local hospitals.

Police said they received a call from an employee at the facility reporting the attack, according to state broadcaster NHK. Victims were attacked at two buildings — on both floors in one building and in the first floor of the other, according to Kanagawa prefecture welfare official Susumu Yamazaki.

About 3 a.m., Uematsu turned himself in at the Sagamihara police station, carrying a bloodstained knife and cloth, officials said.

Former employee

Uematsu had been working at the facility since 2012, said Motoko Rich, the New York Times’ Tokyo bureau chief. It is unclear what he did there, nor if he resigned or was fired from his job.

Former colleagues said he was personable and good with children, and neighbors were shocked to hear of his involvement in the incident.

Kyodo news service released a letter that Uematsu allegedly was trying forward to Tadamori Oshima, the lower house speaker of Japan’s parliament.

In it, Uematsu described detailed plans on how he planned to carry out such an attack during the night when there were few staff working. He wrote he would then turn himself in to the police. Uematsu said that by killing the disabled he would stimulate the world economy and maybe even prevent a World War III.

In a brief press conference, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed that there was no terror link with the Islamic State.

He added that the government would analyze information from the city government and the police department, and that the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare would ensure this kind of incident does not happen again.

Serene location

The 7.5-acre site in the bucolic mountain town is home to 149 residents, ranging in age from teenagers to those in their 70s, according to the Kanagawa prefectural website.

A total of 222 people work at the facility, but only nine — one of whom was a security guard — were on the premises when the incident occurred.

An official who oversees institutions for the mentally disabled says 112 patients not hurt in the attack still were emotionally shaken.

The "Keep Out" tape by police is displayed at the Tsukui Yamayuri En, a care centre at Sagamihara city, Kanagawa prefecture on Tuesday. ( JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)

The “Keep Out” tape by police is displayed at the Tsukui Yamayuri En, a care centre at Sagamihara city, Kanagawa prefecture on Tuesday. (AFP/Getty Images)

The residents who were not hurt had to vacate their usual living quarters while police investigated the attack Tuesday, said Susumu Yamazaki, the Kanagawa prefecture welfare official.

The incident sent shock waves through Japan, where mass killings are rare. Because gun ownership is highly restricted, mass stabbings and poisonings are more common.

The last time Sagamihara made global headlines was in 2012 when Naoko Kikuchi, a member of the Japanese doomsday cult responsible for the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway, was arrested there. The attack killed 13 people and injured more than 5,500 people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.