According to local media reports, the incident is one of Japan’s worst massacres since WWII.
19 people have been confirmed dead and 26 injured in a mass stabbing that occurred in the early hours of this morning at a Japanese facility for disabled people in the city of Sagamihara in Kanagawa Prefecture, west of Tokyo.
The incident occurred at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, when a man armed with knives entered the Tsukui Yamayuri-en (Tsukui Lily Garden) facility and began attacking residents. A staff member called emergency services, who arrived on the scene after the attacks and transported wounded residents to hospital. Local fire and police authorities later confirmed that 19 men and women were killed in the attacks, and 20 of the 26 wounded had been critically injured.
Within an hour of the incident, Satoshi Uematsu, a 26-year-old former employee of the facility, turned himself in at Sagamihara police station, confessing to the crime and carrying a bag with knives in it. He has since been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and trespassing.
Kanagawa Prefectural Police, who made the arrest, say the suspect told them “It’s better if disabled people disappear”. While local media are reporting that Uematsu had been fired from his job at the facility, police are continuing to investigate the motive behind the attacks.
Approximately 150 long-term residents, aged from 19 to 75 years-of-age, who were all intellectually disabled and suffered from a range of learning and physical disabilities, are said to have resided at the facility, which is located about 50 kilometres from Tokyo.
According to local media reports, the incident is one of the worst massacres in Japan’s post-war history. In 1995, members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult killed 12 people and severely injured 50 in a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. In 2008, seven people were killed when a man drove a truck into a crowd and then stabbed several bystanders in Tokyo’s Akihabara district.
Despite the severity of these attacks, mass murders like these remain relatively rare, with Japan consistently ranking amongst countries with the lowest crime rates in the world.