• Kyodo

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Three teenage boys who allegedly beat and forced a 15-year-old high school boy to swim across a river in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, on Saturday night said they tried to rescue him when he disappeared underwater, according to investigators.

Police are still searching for the boy, who is believed to have drowned. They arrested the three male teens — a 16-year-old high school student, a 15-year-old described as a “company worker” who does not attend school and a 14-year-old junior high school student — on Sunday for assault.

“When he disappeared underwater, we went into the river to rescue him,” one of the suspects was quoted by the police as saying.

On Monday, about 80 police officers and firefighters searched the Aizuma River without success. The identities of the suspects have been withheld because they are minors. The police have sent their case against the three to prosecutors.

According to the police, the boy went to a festival in Nagoya with his friends Saturday night. When he tried to pick up a girl there, the others got angry because he had a girlfriend, investigators said.

The suspects, who have allegedly admitted to kicking and punching the victim on the banks of the river, were with about 10 other teenaged boys and girls, they said.

After beating the victim, the three boys allegedly forced him to swim into the dark river, which is about 30 meters wide and 3 meters deep in that area. They told him he “would be forgiven” if he could swim to the other side and return, the police said.

He took off his clothes and began to swim but disappeared underwater after about 15 meters.

“I can’t do it anymore,” one of the teens who witnessed the incident recalled the boy crying out before he went under.

The police will question the others who were also at the scene and will try to determine how much the three boys were aware of the dangers of their act.

The incident left local teenagers and residents in shock.

“It really hurts when you hear your friend going through something like that,” said a 15-year-old boy, a former classmate of the victim who came to the site to watch the police search.

“Many people come to fish here, but I haven’t seen any young people around this place,” said a 16-year-old boy who lives near the site. “I have no idea why this happened.”

The news follows a series of brutal crimes allegedly committed by teenagers in recent months.

The naked body of Ryota Uemura, 13, was found on the banks of the Tama River in Kawasaki in February. His murder sparked outrage across the country.

One of three teenagers suspected of killing Uemura — an 18-year-old who is believed to be the ring leader — told the police that he was annoyed by the victim’s popularity among his fellow students.

Uemura was found with a cut across his throat and other stab wounds, which he suffered after being forced into the frigid river in the middle of the night.

Another young trio were arrested in April for beating a 17-year-old vocational school student and throwing him unconscious into a river. The teen drowned after being left by the alleged perpetrators, who had attended the same junior high school as the victim.

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