Terror struck a New Year’s Eve celebration in Japan as a car plowed into a crowd of revelers in Tokyo shortly after midnight. Authorities are reporting that eight people were injured, including one seriously.
A police spokesman told Japan’s national broadcaster NHK that the suspect- 21 year old Kazuhiro Kusakabe from Osaka-had been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
Kusukabe had originally stated that he crashed his vehicle into the crowd in what he described as an “act of terror.” Kusukabe apparently later said the attack was in retaliation for “capital punishment.”
Japan has had a system of capital punishment in place for hundreds of years, since the 4th century. The Japanese legal system tends to reserve the death penalty for crimes involving multiple murders, although single murder cases have been known to warrant the death penalty under extreme circumstances.
The Japanese government had executed 13 members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult in July of 2018. Aum Shinrikyo had been responsible for the sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subway system in 1995. That attack, the worst terror attack in Japan’s history, killed 13 people and injured thousands more. Kusukabe’s attack last night was apparently in retaliation for those executions.
Six more members of the cult are still on death row awaiting the completion of their final appeals.
Authorities reported that Kusukabe fled the scene after crashing his light gray colored car into the crowd and assaulted a pedestrian in the area. He was arrested around 20 minutes after the attack. Authorities also found around 20 liters of kerosene in the vehicle.
The attack happened in the Harajuku area of Tokyo near the Meiji Shrine. Harajuku is a popular tourist area of the city, and is known internationally as a mecca for Japanese youth culture and fashion.
The New Year’s Eve attack is reminiscent of another similar attack that took place in 2008. In that attack a man crashed a rental vehicle into a crowd of pedestrians before jumping out and stabbing several people in the crowd. The 2008 attack left 7 people dead and over a dozen injured.