In a shocking incident in central Japan, three people have lost their lives in a stabbing and shooting attack, according to local media reports.
The alleged attacker first stabbed a woman before using a hunting rifle to fatally shoot two policemen in Nakano, located in Nagano prefecture. Another individual sustained injuries during the attack.
The suspect is currently holed up inside the residence of Nakano’s city assembly speaker.
Gun violence is exceedingly rare in Japan, despite the high-profile killing of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July of last year.
As per Japanese news agency Kyodo, the police received a distress call at approximately 16:25 (07:25 GMT) reporting a man who had pursued and stabbed a woman.
Eyewitnesses described the man, who was wearing a camouflage uniform, a hat, sunglasses, and a mask, and subsequently shot at the responding police officers.
Several hours after the incident, the suspect remains barricaded inside the residence belonging to Masamichi Aoki, the speaker of the Nakano city assembly.
While Japanese media reports suggest that the suspect may be the speaker’s son, the police have not officially confirmed his identity.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s death had a profound impact on Japan, a country where handguns are prohibited and instances of political violence are almost unheard of.
In 2014, Japan recorded only six incidents of gun-related deaths, in stark contrast to the staggering figure of 33,599 gun-related deaths in the United States.
The stringent gun control measures in Japan require individuals to undergo rigorous examinations and mental health assessments to obtain firearms. Even then, only shotguns and air rifles are permitted.