Taiwan mourns victims of subway stabbing spree

The alleged attacker Cheng Chieh (centre) is transferred by policemen at a local police station in New Taipei City on May 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
The alleged attacker Cheng Chieh (centre) is transferred by policemen at a local police station in New Taipei City on May 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan on Thursday mourned the four victims killed in a stabbing spree aboard a Taipei subway train, the first attack of its kind on the island.

Members of the public laid out flowers and cards to pay tribute to those who died in the attack at Jiangzicui subway station.

Three people - a 28-year-old man, a 26-year-old man and a 47-year-old woman - died at the site from stab wounds to the neck and chest, while a fourth victim, a 62-year-old woman, died in hospital, police said.

The lone attacker, Cheng Chieh, a 21-year-old college student, is in custody undergoing further questioning.

"I hope the spirits of the dead can rest in peace and those who were wounded can recover soon," a tearful woman told reporters at the site.

Twenty-four people were wounded, around half of them seriously, the New Taipei City government said.

During the regular cabinet meeting, Premier Jiang Yi-huah conveyed his condolences to the family of the victims and ordered the police authorities to launch an in-depth investigation.

The Taipei subway system became operational in 1996, and this was the first attack of this kind on it.

The spokesman for the Panchiao district court said the suspect had admitted he was guilty, but declined to reveal further details.

The knife attack happened around 0800 GMT on Wednesday when Cheng, wielding a 30-centimetre long knife and wearing a red T-shirt, began attacking travellers on the subway train outside Taipei, sending hundreds of people screaming and fleeing for help.

When the train pulled into the next station, Cheng fled and was chased by police before being kicked to the ground by a passenger and overwhelmed by a group of security officials and subway riders.

Chen Kuo-en, chief of the New Taipei City police bureau, told reporters hours after the event: "He told the police that he had wanted to do a 'big thing' such as this since his childhood."

"He said he had planned to do this after his graduation, but last week decided to act ahead of his schedule," Chen said, adding that the attacker had no medical record of mental disorder.

Local media said the attacker had been obsessed in online killing games and had written horror stories since high school.

Security has been beefed up at the metro system, which transports around 1.85 million visitors per day.

Meanwhile, the police authorities said they had obtained warrants from prosecutors to search the homes of two men after they had reportedly posted online messages threatening to launch a similar stabbing spree at the subway system of the island's second biggest city Kaohsiung.

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