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Saw-wielding suspect wanted to kill anyone

AKB48 members not targeted by slasher

Kyodo, Reuters

The two AKB48 members attacked by a 24-year-old man with a saw during a fan event in Takizawa, Iwate Prefecture, on Sunday were standing in line at the entrance of a tent and were probably hit immediately after the man entered it, police said Monday.

Police, who arrested Satoru Umeta on the spot Sunday on suspicion of attempted murder, speculate that he managed to enter the venue with a folding saw hidden in a bag.

Umeta told police that he intended to kill someone, but no one in particular, and police are looking into his motives.

There were no bag checks, and fans have said most of the group’s events employ only cursory checks at best, prompting newspapers to call for tighter security.

Security checks tend to be light in Japan, which has stiff gun control laws, and violent crime involving weapons is rare.

According to sources familiar with the investigation, participants at special events where fans can meet members of the group in person, are allowed to enter the tents individually and shake hands with them.

At Sunday’s event, Rina Kawaei, 19, and Anna Iriyama, 18, both suffered cuts to their heads and fingers. Also in the tent at the time of the incident were AKB48 staffers and other dancers in the group.

Hiroshi Yuasa, manager of the AKB48 Theater in Akihabara, Tokyo, on Monday visited Iwate Medical University Hospital in Morioka, where Kawaei and Iriyama underwent emergency surgery on Sunday.

“The surgery ended successfully and their condition is stable,” Yuasa said. “They should be able to leave the hospital tomorrow.”

After the incident, the group’s scheduled concert Monday at AKB48 Theater was canceled, along with its other meet-and-greet events, the management firm said on its website.

Some of fans who attended the group’s regular event at AKB48 Theater on Sunday said they were shocked by the incident. Those at the Akihabara event were not told about it.