• Kyodo


Police on Saturday searched the home of a 17-year-old youth who was arrested Thursday for allegedly hijacking a bus in southwestern Japan the previous day, stabbing one passenger to death and injuring at least four others.

On Friday, police sent the boy’s hijacking case to prosecutors. The teenager, whose identity is being withheld because he is a minor, has admitted possession of a weapon and hostage-taking, according to police.

Shortly before 11 a.m. on Saturday, a joint team made up of officers from Saga and Hiroshima prefectural police arrived at the teenager’s home. Four officers entered the house carrying boxes.

The youth was arrested immediately after riot police stormed the bus shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday in Hiroshima Prefecture, rescuing the 10 remaining hostages and ending a 15-hour ordeal that began when the suspect allegedly commandeered the intercity bus in Kyushu wielding a large kitchen knife.

Police said the suspect, an unemployed resident of Saga, was arrested on suspicion of violating the Firearm and Sword Control Law and the Law for the Punishment of Extortion Involving Hostage-Taking.

In addition, police said they will issue the youth with another arrest warrant on suspicion of fatally stabbing 68-year-old passenger Tatsuko Tsukamoto.

The boy has so far refused to give a motive for the hijacking, they said.

Police also plan to conduct psychological tests on the youth, who has a history of mental illness. The teenager’s speech and behavior are at times unintelligible and he has refused to eat since being taken into custody, police said.

Police sources said the boy purchased the knife used in the hijacking immediately before getting on the bus.

He bought the 30-cm-long butcher’s knife at a cutlery shop in Saga for 16,000 yen on Wednesday, the sources said.

On Friday, investigators inspected the bus, which remains at the rescue site, the Kodani rest area on the Sanyo Expressway in Higashi-Hiroshima, looking for clues in the death of Tsukamoto.

Tsukamoto was pronounced dead at a Hiroshima hospital due to loss of blood from knife wounds to her neck shortly after she was released from the bus at the Okuya rest area, also in Higashi-Hiroshima, where the vehicle was halted for four hours.

Two other female passengers, both in their 30s, were also believed to have been stabbed by the hijacker and were released from the bus at the Okuya rest area.

Four hostages hospitalized after the ordeal were released Friday, including 6-year-old Yuki Ishibashi, who was held at knifepoint by the hijacker.

The bus was hijacked about 40 minutes after it left Saga at 12:56 p.m. with about 20 passengers on board for the 70-minute drive to Fukuoka. The bus is operated by Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co., or Nishitetsu.

Police were informed of the hijacking at 2:47 p.m. when one passenger managed to escape from the bus in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, and reported the incident to the Japan Highway Public Corp. on an emergency highway telephone.

During a police chase before the bus was halted, initially at the Okuya rest area, Mikiko Matsuno, a 30-year-old nurse from Saga Prefecture, jumped from the bus, breaking her right leg.

Masayuki Kishikawa, a 52-year-old company employee, also from Saga, jumped from the bus at around 4:20 p.m., suffering minor injuries.

The suspect released the remaining four male passengers in a tunnel in Hiroshima shortly before the bus was stopped in the Okuya parking lot at 5:50 p.m. The remaining passengers were all female.

During the chase, the hijacker called police seven times using a mobile telephone, telling them he was holding a girl hostage and demanding that they provide him with a gun when he stopped at the Kibi service area in Okayama, east of Hiroshima Prefecture.

The bus had been halted for nearly four hours at the Okuya rest area before it rejoined the expressway at around 9:35 p.m. and arrived some 30 minutes later at Kodani, where police continued urging the hijacker to surrender.

At Kodani, the suspect released a 72-year-old woman at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday and a 52-year-old woman two hours later.

Girl’s anxiety attacks

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) A 6-year-old girl taken hostage Wednesday in a bus hijacking while traveling alone to see her grandparents finally made it to their house Friday, but is suffering from bouts of anxiety after her traumatic experience, family members has said.

Yuki Ishibashi, from the town of Kubota, in Saga Prefecture, was among the nine passengers released early Thursday morning after the bus was hijacked in Kyushu by a knife-wielding teenager.

Yuki was held at knife-point by the hijacker. , identified by police as a 17-year-old youth, during a standoff with riot police.

Yuki left a hospital in Hiroshima on Friday morning with her father and arrived at her grandparents’ home in Fukuoka shortly after 2:30 p.m., where she was met by her mother and brother.

Her father, Hiroshi, 41, told reporters waiting outside the house that he spent the night with Yuki at the hospital and that she seemed to have slept soundly.

“But apparently memories (of the hijack) are coming back to her little by little and she is having bouts of anxiety, becoming suddenly afraid. I don’t think she is fully stable yet, ” he said.

He expressed gratitude to the bus driver and the other passengers who had helped his daughter during the ordeal.

The driver, Tadashi Hirano, 57, left the same hospital on Friday morning. He was not injured during the hijacking.

The hijacking suspect, from Saga, was arrested after police stormed the bus early Thursday, 15 hours after it was commandeered en route from Saga to Fukuoka.

One woman died, allegedly after being stabbed by the suspect, and at least four other people were injured.

The suspect, who has a history of mental illness, has refused to give a motive for the hijacking.

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