Pedestrians injured as van ‘deliberately’ driven into New Year crowd in Tokyo

Pedestrians injured as van ‘deliberately’ driven into New Year crowd in Tokyo

At least nine people were injured, one seriously, when a auto deliberately plowed into crowds celebrating the New Year in central Tokyo in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Police took into custody a man in his 20s and said he is suspected of intentionally trying to kill people by driving the vehicle through the street.

The road was closed to traffic over the New Year, largely because of its proximity to the Meiji Shrine, which is a popular destination for people on New Year's Eve - many Japanese visit local or famous shrines over the new year period to pray for good fortune in the coming year.

Investigative sources quoted Kusakabe as saying at first he had perpetrated an act of terrorism.

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Kusakabe, whose occupation is unknown, knocked down eight men aged between 19 and 51 as he drove about a third of the way along the 350m street. The vehicle stopped after crashing into a building.

Another 109 other people remain on death row.

Kusakabe told the police he had meant to kill the pedestrians he hit "in retaliation for an execution". Local media said a container with kerosene inside was found inside the rental auto.

Kusakabe had tried to flee the scene but was captured about 20 minutes after the incident, RT reported.

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Images showed crowds flocking to the shrine on New Year's Day, despite the incident just hours earlier.

Some media reports said the man had linked the attack to the executions in July of 13 members of the Aum Shinrikyo or Aum Supreme Truth cult, who were responsible for a 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

A ninth man was slightly injured after the driver had allegedly struck him after getting out of the vehicle.

The people injured ranged in age from teenagers to people in their 50s, including a male university student who remains in critical condition.

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