All hostages unharmed in bank standoff

Captor wanted Noda to resign; police find him asleep in chair

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

Police stormed a bank in Aichi Prefecture and arrested a knife-wielding man who had taken five hostages to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government, following a nearly 13-hour standoff.

Koji Nagakubo, 32, was seized after police cut through a glass window of Toyokawa Shinkin Bank’s Zoshi branch in a quiet residential area of the city of Toyokawa at around 2:45 a.m.

Police said Nagakubo was asleep in a chair when they entered the building. His arm was tied by rope to one of his captives, Moe Takeyama, 19, whose hands had been bound.

Among the four remaining hostages when the standoff ended, police reported that Takeyama had sustained minor injuries to her arm but the others were unharmed: Kengo Kato, 41, deputy chief of the bank branch, Junko Yamamoto, 27, a bank employee, and Yoko Horie, 55, a part-timer at the branch.

The standoff began Thursday afternoon, when Nagakubo is believed to have taken hostage a bank customer who had been using an ATM. Nagakubo released the first captive, Yoshie Kinoshita, 48, Thursday night in exchange for food.

Aichi police quoted Nagakubo as saying he had taken the hostages to demand that Noda’s administration step down from office — only 3½ weeks before the general election takes place.

During the standoff, Nagakubo forced one of the hostages, who was not named, to repeatedly telephone the police to demand food, cigarettes and a loudspeaker. The hostage managed to describe the situation inside the bank to police through the phone conversations.

In initial questioning by police, Nagakubo confessed to taking the five hostages but had yet to elaborate on his motive, NHK said.

About 13 hours after the incident began, police in protective gear rushed the branch before dawn, overpowered Nagakubo and led the four hostages out.

“It was difficult to check inside, but we placed top priority on the safe retrieval of the hostages,” an investigator told NHK. “We believe we took the best action possible.”

Television footage showed a dozen police officers smashing the second floor window and moving down to the ground floor, where Nagakubo pointed his knife at the hostages.

NHK reported that Nagakubo also had another knife on him and had handcuffed at least one of the hostages.