Tokyo, July 26: At least 19 people were killed in Japan when a knife-wielding man went on a rampage at a care centre for the mentally disabled early Tuesday (July 26), officials said. Another 25 were wounded, 20 of them seriously, in the attack in Sagamihara city, 50 kilometres west of Tokyo, a local fire department spokesman said.
A 26-year-old man who said he was a former employee of the centre later turned himself in at a police station, admitting to officers: "I did it." Police said they had received a call from the Tsukui Yamayuri-en centre sometime after 2:30 am about a man armed with a knife entering the facility.
According to police cited by the Asahi Shimbun daily, the suspect said: "The disabled should all disappear." "Doctors confirmed the deaths of 19 people," the fire department official told AFP. The alleged assailant turned himself in after 3:00 am (local time), admitting he had carried out the attack, a police spokesman said. Kyodo news agency identified the attacker, who it said was arrested, as 26-year-old Satoshi Uematsu.
"We are still confirming details of the case," a police spokesman told AFP. Police had cordoned off the centre, with yellow "Keep out" tape around the one-storey building nestled against forested hills. Japan has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the developed world, and attacks involving weapons of any kind are unusual.
But the country has seen outbursts of random as well as planned violence. In 2008 in Tokyo a man ploughed a rental truck into a crowd of shoppers in Tokyo's bustling Akihabara district before he stabbed passers-by, killing seven people and injuring 10 others.
After that rampage, Japan banned possession of double-edged knives with blades longer than 5.5 centimetres (about two inches), punishable by up to three years in prison or a 500,000 yen fine. In 2001, eight children at a primary school in Osaka were stabbed to death.
In 1995, members of a Japanese doomsday cult released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system, killing 13 people and causing thousands of commuters to fall ill in a crime that deeply dented Japan's sense of security. But Japan has recently seen an increasing number of cases of attacks on the weak and vulnerable. In February, a former nursing home worker was arrested for allegedly throwing an 87-year-old resident from a balcony to his death.
The former employee also reportedly admitted killing two more residents in their 80s and 90s by throwing them from balconies in 2014. There have also been cases of family members killing ailing and ageing spouses or parents suffering from dementia in Japan's rapidly ageing society.