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OSAKA — A man tried Tuesday to torch the Osaka branch of Tokai Tokyo Securities Co. in Chuo Ward but instead set himself ablaze before fleeing, police said.

Employees initially thought the man was bringing a delivery, as he made several trips between the door and the counter, carrying in eight 18-liter plastic tanks.

But then he pulled what appeared to be a knife, doused the counter with liquid and flung a towel that he had lighted, police said.

The liquid did not ignite, and instead flames from a cushion the man had also set on fire caught on his clothing, which branch employees managed to put out, they said.

The man was believed to have suffered burns but escaped in a vehicle that had been parked nearby. Police are investigating the case as an attempted firebombing and began a search for the man.

The incident, during which the man made no demands, took place at around 8:40 a.m. There were no customers in the branch at the time, and none of the roughly 20 employees there were injured, police said. Because the employees thought the man was bringing a delivery, they didn’t challenge him.

He was described as being around 50 years old and about 160 cm tall.

Later in the day, police arrested a 55-year-old man on suspicion of attempting to set fire to a sundry goods wholesaler in Matsubara, Osaka Prefecture, early Tuesday morning.

Investigators were questioning the man in connection with the attack on the brokerage.

The suspect was identified as Yutaka Morimoto, the former president of a firm that had dealings with the wholesaler.

He was reportedly found by investigators while being treated for burns to his hands and feet at a hospital in Nara Prefecture.

According to investigators, Morimoto entered the warehouse of the wholesaler at around 6:20 a.m., brandishing a knife and demanding to see the firm’s president.

He then bound three employees with duct tape, freed them and set kerosene he had poured over some cardboard boxes nearby alight. The suspect then fled.

The fire was later doused and the employees were unhurt.

Life term for arsonist

NAGOYA (Kyodo) A 61-year-old confectionery retailer in Ichinomiya, Aichi Prefecture, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for committing some 20 acts of arson, including one that killed a woman.

Shotaro Baba admitted setting more than 100 fires in the Ichinomiya area.

According to the Nagoya District Court, he set some 20 fires between October 1999 and November 2000. In December 1999, he set 15 fires in one evening, killing an 81-year-old woman in Ichinomiya.

Presiding Judge Shinichiro Ito said the fires had a major impact on the community.

“(Baba) repeatedly set fires to vent his anger over the fact that he had insufficient funds for his business because of his addiction to pachinko,” Ito said. “He was selfish, and there can be no room for leniency. Total damages amount to some 550 million yen, and the fires dealt huge emotional and financial blows to the victims.”

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