Saw-wielding man attacks Japan girl band AKB48

Anna Iriyama, 18, and Rina Kawaei, 19, suffered hand and head injuries, but were discharged from hospital on Monday.
Members of Japanese female pop group AKB48 Rina Kawaei, left, and Anna Iriyama speak to the media as they are discharged from a hospital in Morioka, Iwate prefecture on May 26, 2014. A man wielding a saw slashed and injured the women at a fan event in Japan, leaving the country stunned. Reuters
Members of Japanese female pop group AKB48 Rina Kawaei, left, and Anna Iriyama speak to the media as they are discharged from a hospital in Morioka, Iwate prefecture on May 26, 2014. A man wielding a saw slashed and injured the women at a fan event in Japan, leaving the country stunned. Reuters

TOKYO // Two teenage members of Japanese girl band AKB48 were attacked by a man wielding a saw at one of the band’s meet-the-fans sessions on Sunday.

Anna Iriyama, 18, and Rina Kawaei, 19, suffered hand and head injuries, and a male staff member who tried to stop the attack at a fan event in northern Japan had cuts on his hand. All three left the hospital by late Monday.

The women, wearing hats and covering their hands with white towels, appeared in front of a huge crowdoutside the hospital and thanked fans for their concern.

“We’ve caused you worry, but we are returning to Tokyo now,” Ms Kawaei said.

The attack on the group, whose members are dubbed “idols you can meet” because of their fan events, has rattled people in a nation known for public safety. The news topped television entertainment shows and the two nationwide newspapers Yomiuri and Mainichi.

On Sunday, the group gave a mini-concert for hundreds of fans in Takizawa city which was followed by a handshaking event.

As soon as the handshaking event started, a man took a foldable saw from his jacket and lunged towards the two women, who were standing at the entrance of one of the tents set up inside a gymnasium.

Police arrested Satoru Umeta, a 24-year-old unemployed man, on suspicion of attempted murder.

Iwate prefectural police official Takahiro Fujibayashi said Umeta told investigators that he was not an AKB48 fan and just wanted to commit random murder.

Fujibayashi said there were no full security checks of bags and the suspect might have hidden the saw inside a bag he had at the time of his arrest.

AKB48’s manager, Hiroshi Yuasa, said he believed the security checks were appropriate but would review safety measures.

Dozens of AKB48 handshaking events are held in Japan every year. Bouncers are assigned to these events to remove fans who linger, but no major attacks have been previously reported.

“It’s nice they are close to the fans, but we have to remember there is a possibility that people like [the attacker] may sneak in,” popular talk show host Seiji Miyane said on his programme. He said handshaking is one of the main appeals of AKB48 but the risk needs to be reduced.

Twitter and other social networking sites were flooded with comments about the incident, many of them raising concerns about security checks. AKB48 members have remained silent about the case.

“Such an incident should never have happened. Even if they recover from their physical injuries, their emotional scars will never heal,” former AKB48 member Erena Ono tweeted.

* Associated Press

Published: May 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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