Tokyo attack: nine hurt as car rams into New Year's Eve revellers

Police arrest Kazuhiro Kusakabe, 21, for attempted murder

A policeman stands guard at a site where a vehicle ploughed into crowds celebrating New Year's in a popular tourist area of Harajuku in Tokyo, Japan, January 1, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Nine people were hurt, one seriously, when a man deliberately drove a car into crowds celebrating New Year’s Eve along a famous Tokyo street.

Police said the man, identified as Kazuhiro Kusakabe, 21, drove a small vehicle into Takeshita Street in Tokyo’s fashion district of Harajuku at 10 minutes past midnight with an “intent to murder”.

According to national broadcaster NHK, Mr Kusakabe – arrested for attempted murder – told police he was acting in “retribution for the death penalty”, without giving precise details.

TV Asahi said officers were investigating whether the accused is fit to stand trial.

One college student suffered serious injuries in the attack and was undergoing surgery, police said.


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According to local media, Mr Kusakabe hit eight people with the vehicle and assaulted another on the street.

The car hit its first victim about 30 metres into the narrow street before knocking down seven more over the next 100 metres, according to the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.

NHK footage showed a small box vehicle with a smashed front and paramedics carrying people on stretchers into ambulances.

Local media said a container of kerosene was found in the rental car used in the attack. Mr Kusakabe reportedly drove the vehicle from the western region of Osaka.

One witness called it a “ghastly scene”.

“I saw some guys collapsed on the street. As I walked closer to the scene, many more people had fallen on the ground. By the time I reached the exact place, paramedics were already there helping people,” he said.

Takeshita Street is packed with small shops and is considered the centre of youth culture and fashion in Japan, attracting tens of thousands of tourists every day.

Unlike in other major cities, New Year in Tokyo is a relatively muted affair. There is no major fireworks display and no central point where revellers gather to see in the New Year.

Japanese people tend to welcome the New Year with family and quietly go to shrines to pray for good fortune in the year to come.

By midday yesterday, hundreds of thousands of tourists had returned to the street filled with bright pink ornaments, although blue tarpaulins covering the scene of the case remained.