In Brief

Germany and Japan rocked by New Year’s Day car attacks

Nine injured in Tokyo in act of retaliation for Aum executions, while four hurt in anti-immigrant attack in west Germany

At least nine people were injured, one seriously, when a car deliberately ploughed into crowds celebrating the New Year in central Tokyo, in an apparent act of retaliation for the execution of Aum cult members responsible for the 1995 Sarin gas attack.

The incident occurred on the well-known Takeshita Street in the shopping and tourist district of Harajuku.

CNN says the “narrow, iconic street is known worldwide as a hub of Japanese youth culture and fashion, and the area famous for its “Harajuku girls,” who dress in outlandish, striking costumes”.

The road was closed to traffic over the New Year, largely because of its proximity to the famous Meiji Shrine, meaning it was packed with pedestrians when a minivan barreled down it just minutes after midnight.

After hitting nine pedestrians, the suspect fled from the scene and assaulted a passerby before he was captured 20 minutes later. TV Asahi has reported that a large amount of kerosene was discovered in the car and traces of the liquid were also found on the suspect’s clothes.

The suspect appeared to have planned to set his car on fire, Mainichi newspaper and other Japanese media report.

The man was later identified as 21-year-old Kazuhiro Kusakabe from the city of Osaka, 400 miles southwest of Tokyo. A police spokesman said he has been detained on suspicion of attempted murder.

The Japan Times reports that Kusakabe had initially described the incident as an “act of terror” but later said the attack was in retaliation for capital punishment.

He reportedly told police that he had acted in “retaliation for the execution of Aum cult members”.

The remaining members of the doomsday cult, which was found to be responsible for a 1995 sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway, were executed in July.

Anti-immigrant car attack rocks Germany

In Germany, at least four people have been injured after a man drove his car into a crowd of people on New Year’s Day, in what appears to have been an intentional attack directed at immigrants.

Police said they have arrested the 50-year-old driver of a silver Mercedes who first attempted to hit a group of pedestrians in the western city of Bottrop before driving into a crowd of people in the city centre.

He then sped towards the nearby city of Essen, where he tried and failed to hit people waiting at a bus stop before being arrested on suspicion of attempted homicide.

Police have confirmed that those injured included Syrians and Afghans and The Guardian reports that authorities have said the driver made anti-immigrant comments during his arrest.

“Investigating authorities are currently working on the assumption that this was a targeted attack, possibly motivated by the anti-foreigner views of the driver,” police said.

12 people were killed in December 2016 when a Tunisian man ploughed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin. The attack was later claimed by Islamic State.

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