8 Children Dead in Japanese School Stabbing

ByABC News

T O K Y O, June 8, 2001 -- It took just 10 minutes for a man armed with a kitchen knife to unleash terror in a Japanese elementary school in a stabbing spree that left eight school children dead and injured 21 other people.

In a chilling rampage that shocked the nation, a 37-year-old man burst into an elementary school in Ikeda, a suburb of Osaka, about 310 miles west of Tokyo today and began stabbing and slashing students and teachers.

Local media reported that the man had a history of psychological problems.

The mass killing, the worst in Japan since a nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subway six years ago, sent hundreds of panicked children — many of them sobbing and screaming for help — scrambling to get out of the school premises.

Two children were pronounced dead at the scene, six died at the hospital and six more were said to have serious injuries.

The knife-wielding killer, identified as Mamoru Takuma, was taken into custody. No motive for the attack has been identified.

Panic and Pandemonium

It was a terrifying and deadly morning in the quiet Osaka suburb as ambulance sirens wailed and anxious parents rushed to the scene, many of them frantically trying to reach their children on mobile phones.

Witnesses said the rampage started shortly after a recess ended when Takuma burst into a classroom from the rear entrance and began slashing children along the way as he moved into a hallway.

Several children were slashed before two teachers managed to pin him down and the police arrived on the scene.

A panicked announcement on the school's public address system set several children rushing to get out of the premises as some of the injured children fell in the ensuing melee.

Hours after the attack, bloodstains on the school steps and in the school building confirmed witness accounts that some of the injured had fallen in a desperate attempt to get out.

Nearly 700 children attend the school.

A History of Mental Illness

Police said Takuma carried a six-inch blade and was also injured in the attack. He was taken to a local hospital.

At the time of his apprehension, his speech was slurred and he admitted to taking an overdose of tranquilizers, Japanese media reported.

Local media reports said Takuma worked as a caretaker at another school and had a record of psychological problems.

Reports said he had been arrested in March 1999 for allegedly dropping tranquilizers into the tea of some teachers at the school he worked in. However, he was not prosecuted, apparently because he suffered from psychological problems.

Shocked Nation

While school tragedies have become a grim reality in the United States, Japan has not suffered a school tragedy of such an enormous scale in the past.

Speaking to reporters today, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he was shocked by the tragedy and called it "a terrible incident."

Although the Japanese crime rate is much lower than in the United States, a series of extremely violent and often bizarre crimes, including school stabbings, in the past few years have raised Japanese concerns.

On May 27, 1997, the discovery of the severed head of a mentally disturbed 11-year-old boy at the entrance to his junior high school in Kobe, 280 miles west of Tokyo, shocked the nation.

A 16-year-old convicted of beheading Jun Hase was ordered by a court to pay about $836,000 in damages to the victim's parents, setting off a hot debate about the need to toughen penalties.

ABCNEWS' Peter Hadfield in Tokyo and Richard Gizbert in London contributed to this report.

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