Disbelief in Japan town after stabbing rampage at disabled centre left 19 dead, 25 injured

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Japanese government officials say a mass stabbing at a home for disabled people in which at least 19 people were killed, is not related to Islamic State.
Japanese fire department medics and police officers inside Tsukui Yamayuri-en, a residential care facility for disabled people in Sagamihara on July 26. PHOTO: EPA
Police officers investigating at the facility for the disabled in Sagamihara, Japan, where a deadly attack by a knife-wielding man took place on July 26. PHOTO: REUTERS
The suspect, 26-year-old Satoshi Uematsu, is said to have turned himself in to the police. PHOTO: SATOSHI UEMATSU / FACEBOOK
Photographers gather outside the residence of a man who went on a rampage with a knife at the Tsukui Yamayuri En care centre in Sagamihara on July 26. PHOTO: AFP
Police officers and rescue workers at a facility for the disabled in Sagamihara, where at least 19 people were killed and as many as 20 wounded by a knife-wielding man. PHOTO: KYODO VIA REUTERS
Police officers near a facility for the disabled in Sagamihara, where at least 19 people were killed and more than 40 wounded by a knife-wielding man on July 26. PHOTO: KYODO VIA REUTERS
The Tsukui Yamayuri En, a care centre at Sagamihara city in Kanagawa prefecture on July 26. PHOTO: JIJI PRESS / AFP

TOKYO - At least 19 people were killed and 25 injured - 20 of them seriously - during a stabbing rampage at a home for the disabled outside Tokyo early Tuesday (July 26), in one of the most brutal attacks in post-war Japan.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters there was no evidence so far to suggest a link between the attack and Islamic extremism.

The suspect, 26-year-old Satoshi Uematsu, is said to have turned himself in to the police at about 3am local time (2am Singapore time). This was half an hour after staff at the Tsukui Yamayuri En (Tsukui Lily Garden) called the police, at 2.30am.

"I did it," the man, who was wearing a black T-shirt, reportedly told the police. "It would be better if all the disabled in the world were gotten rid off."

Uematsu has been charged with murder. He is said to be unemployed and is a former employee of the facility in Sagamihara, located about 40km south-west of Tokyo. Japanese news reports said he did not have a knife on him when he confessed to the attack, as he had left it in his car before he entered the police station.

Uematsu reportedly jumped over a locked gate and entered the facility by breaking a first-floor glass window. A hammer was found nearby.

Exclusive CCTV footage obtained by the Japan News Network showed Uematsu allegedly speeding to the site in a black Honda at 1.37am. He was pictured running out of the compound and driving away at 2.50am.

Japanese media used this picture of a man they identified as 26-year-old Satoshi Uematsu. He is said to have turned himself in to the police at about 3am local time (2am Singapore time). PHOTO: SATOSHI UEMATSU / FACEBOOK

There was confusion in early reports about the number of wounded, which had fluctuated between 20 and 45.

Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed official from Sagamihara city as saying that Uematsu was hospitalised in February this year after he said he was willing to kill disabled people if the government approved it.

News pictures at 6.50am local time showed a row of emergency vehicles and ambulances parked outside the two-storey facility, which houses up to 160 people who require help with bathing, eating and other daily functions. Eight staff are on night duty every day.

Emergency workers were seen removing the dead and treating the injured beneath a large orange tarpaulin screen.

The 30,000-sq-m facility was set up by the Kanawaga Prefecture government in 1964 and is run by a social welfare organisation. It has a swimming pool, gymnasium and medical clinic on its compounds.

As of end April, the facility had 149 long-term residents with disabilities aged between 19 and 75, with 40 of them aged above 60 years old.

A man who identified himself as the father of a patient in the facility told national broadcaster NHK that he learned about the attack on the radio, but information from the centre was not forthcoming.

"I'm very worried but they won't let me in," he said, standing just outside a police cordon.

Police said they were still investigating possible motives. "We are still confirming details of the case," a police spokesman said.

The attack is among the deadliest of its kind in recent years in Japan, though such mass killings are considered to be rare. But the country has seen some random and planned acts of violence.

A former janitor stabbed eight children to death in Osaka in 2001 with a kitchen knife. In 2008, a man drove a truck into a crowd near Akihabara before stabbing passers-by, killing seven and injuring 10 others.

And last year, in the city of Sumoto, five elderly people were stabbed to death.

After the Akihabara rampage, Japan banned possession of double-edged knives with blades longer than 5.5cm. Offenders could be jailed up to three years in prison, or fined 500,000 yen (S$6,394).

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