Masked man kills four in rare gun and knife attack in Japan

Journalists place cameras near a residential building where a man was holed up in Nakano (AP)
Journalists place cameras near a residential building where a man was holed up in Nakano (AP)

A man has been arrested after four people were killed in a shooting and stabbing incident in Japan.

The alleged assailant wore camouflage gear as he stabbed a woman and opened fire with what appeared to be a hunting rifle in the Nagano region in central Japan about 4.25pm local time on Thursday, NHK national television reported.

Neighbours called the police after the man barricaded himself in a house.

A witness said the man told him: “I killed her because I wanted to.”

Two officers who arrived were shot dead with a shotgun or hunting rifle.

The alleged assailant was later holed up in a house for almost 12 hours. A woman who escaped from the property said the attacker was her son while his father was a leader of the city assembly.

The suspect, named as Masanori Aoki, 31, was later arrested.

Nagano prefectural police chief Iwao Koyama offered condolences to the victims and said the loss of two police officials is “extremely regrettable.”

The house he barricaded himself in was owned by his father, authorities said.

Gun crimes are rare in Japan, where gun ownership is tightly regulated.

The annual number of fatal shootings in Japan is often reported as being in single figures, in a country of 124 million people, twice the population of Britain. Most killings involve disputes between rival yakuza gangs.

The level of gun ownership is also very low. Handguns are banned and hunting guns are subject to a strict licensing system. Every three years a gun owner has to undergo a day of training, take a written test and pass an assessment in a shooting range.

There are also criminal record and mental health checks. Guns and ammunition have to be kept separately and are inspected by the police once a year.

Last year, however, Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister, was shot dead while election campaigning by a man who had made his own crude gun.