A man screaming “I will kill you” has attacked schoolgirls waiting at a bus stop in Japan, slaughtering two people and wounding 16 before taking his own life, local authorities and media said.
The girls, aged between 6 ands 12, were students at a private Catholic school in Kawasaki city, south of Tokyo, and were boarding their school bus when the suspect attacked them, according to NHK.
The driver of the Caritas Elementary School bus told police he saw a man approach the bus stop and start slashing at people, holding a knife in both hands, the broadcaster said.
The girl who was killed is thought to have been a 12 years old. A 39-year-old man was also killed and the woman was severely injured, NHK said.
A suspect was detained at the scene after stabbing himself in the neck but died later, NHK cited police as saying. It said the man, a Kawasaki resident probably in his 50s, was unconscious when he was detained.
Television footage showed emergency workers giving first aid to people inside an orange tent set up on the street, and police and other officials carrying the injured to ambulances.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the stabbing spree as harrowing, adding that he is outraged and will take all necessary measures for children’s safety.
Abe said: “It was an extremely harrowing incident in which many small children were victimised, and I feel strong resentment… I will take all possible measures to protect the safety of children.”
The motive for the attack was not yet clear but there were no immediate fears of a wider security threat.
The attack occurred on the final day of US President Donald Trump’s four-day state visit to Japan.
“On behalf of the First Lady and myself, I want to take a moment to send our prayers and sympathy to the victims of the stabbing attack this morning in Tokyo,” Trump said as he toured Japan’s largest warship, the Kaga.
“All Americans stand with the people of Japan and grieve the victims and for their families,” he said.
TV footage showed scores of police officers and emergency vehicles at the crime scene, with large areas cordoned off.
A witness told NHK he saw people lying on the ground covered in blood and one police officer was seen hosing down the sidewalk.
“I saw a boy carrying a school bag with scratches on his face, wrist and legs in a parking lot,” NHK quoted an unidentified witness as saying.
“He was visibly trembling - frightened and shocked.”
The girls’ school was located just over a kilometre from the scene of the attack, NHK said.
Violent crime is relatively rare in Japan but occasional high-profile incidents have shocked the nation. There have been previous examples of mass stabbings in Japan, sometimes involving the vulnerable.
A knife-wielding man broke into a facility for the disabled in a small town near Tokyo in 2016 and killed 19 patients in their sleep. In 2001, eight children were stabbed to death by a former janitor at their school in Osaka.
More than a dozen people were injured in a 2010 stabbing spree on a school bus and a commuter bus in a Tokyo suburb.