Japan police arrest suspected gunman after hostage standoff

Authorities say the attack at a post office may be related to an earlier shooting at a hospital that wounded two people.

Police officers take cover behind cars outside the post office where a suspected gunman has taken people hostage after injuring two at a hospital, in Warabi, Saitama Prefecture, Japan October 31, 2023, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
Police take cover behind cars outside a post office where a suspected gunman has taken people hostage in Warabi, Japan on October 31, 2023 [Kyodo/via Reuters]

Police in Japan have ended an eight-hour standoff with a gunman at a post office in Tokyo by capturing the suspect after two hostages were freed safely.

Authorities said the attack on Tuesday could be related to an earlier shooting at a hospital.

The man had entered the post office with a gun in Warabi, north of Tokyo, about an hour after the hospital shooting in which two people were wounded in the nearby city of Toda.

Footage on NHK television showed an elderly man sitting between two police officers in the backseat of a police car that drove towards a local police station.

Police said they captured the gunman when they stormed into the building, which they did about an hour after the second of the two postal staff who had remained in the building safely fled. The other hostage had safely walked out nearly two hours earlier, according to NHK reports.

The gunman’s motive was not immediately clear.

Police said they were investigating the hospital and post office attacks together because of a possibility they are related. They are also looking into a fire that broke out at a building, which is reportedly the suspect’s apartment, near the hospital around the time of the shooting.

NHK said the suspect is an 86-year-old resident of Toda.

Unfamiliar violence

Violent crime is rare in Japan, which has extremely strict gun regulations and one of the lowest murder rates in the world.

However, the country has seen more high-profile shootings and attacks in recent years, most notably the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year.

In April, a man was arrested for allegedly throwing an explosive at current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a campaign event in the city of Wakayama. Kishida was not hurt in the incident.

The following month, a man hid out in a building after allegedly killing four people, including two police officers and an elderly woman, in a gun and knife attack.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies