Saw-wielding attacker of Japan girl band AKB48 members sentenced to jail

TOKYO (AFP) - A man who attacked two members of Japanese girl band AKB48 with a saw during a "meet the fans" event was sentenced to six years in jail today.

Unemployed Satoru Umeta used a 50-cm saw, onto which he had fastened box cutter blades, to injure Rina Kawaei and Anna Iriyama, now both 19 years old, in May last year.

Both singers suffered broken bones in their right hands, and cuts on their arms and heads during the incident in Iwate, northern Japan.

The presiding judge at the Morioka District Court said Umenta, 24, had done something "cruel and very hazardous, which could have taken people's lives".

"The fear the victims had during the event, where they were meeting with fans, and the mental damage were significant," judge Takehiko Okada said.

Umeta's lawyers said their client has shown signs of schizophrenia and was suffering from frustration because of his poor communication skills.

AKB48 - an abbreviation of the Tokyo district of Akihabara - is one of the most successful acts of all time in monetary terms.

Part pop act and part talent show, its more than 100-strong pool of girls and young women compete for a spot in the limelight with each new catchy but formulaic hit.

Their success is built on their accessibility to legions of fans, many of whom are older, single men.

Members appear at regular events to shake hands and pose for pictures, as well as on social networking sites.

The group has spawned dozens of offshoots, all using the same three-letter naming formula, including in places as far away as Jakarta.