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World & Nation

Van slams into crowd at New Year’s festivities in Tokyo, injuring 8 people

Police and firefighters inspect around the site of a car attack near Takeshita Street in Tokyo, earl
Police and firefighters inspect the site of a car attack near Takeshita Street in Tokyo early Jan. 1, 2019. A car slammed into pedestrians on a street where people had gathered for New Year’s festivities.
(Yuta Omori / Kyodo News via AP)

A minivan slammed into pedestrians early Tuesday on a street where people had gathered for New Year’s festivities in downtown Tokyo, injuring eight people, police said.

The van’s driver, Kazuhiro Kusakabe, 21, was arrested and being questioned, Tokyo Metropolitan Police said on customary condition of anonymity.

He is suspected of intentionally trying to kill people. NHK TV footage showed a small van with the entire front end smashed and officers and ambulance workers rushing to the scene.

A ninth person was injured after Kusakabe got out of the van and punched him, police said. His condition was not immediately known.

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A large tank filled with kerosene was found in the car, police said. The suspect appeared to have planned to set his car on fire, Mainichi newspaper and other Japanese media reported. Police declined to comment on the reports, saying such possible motives were still under investigation.

The crash occurred on Takeshita Dori, a road well known to tourists and pop culture and fashion fans, which runs right by Meiji Shrine in Harajuku, Shibuya ward.

Every New Year’s Eve, the train line that includes Harajuku station runs all night for people welcoming the new year with a shrine visit.

Japan is a relatively crime-free nation with strict gun control laws. In 2008, a man drove his car into a crowd in the popular Akihabara electronic shopping district, got off and went on a stabbing rampage with a knife. Seven people were killed.

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