Van ploughs into Tokyo pedestrians headed for New Year's prayers

image sourceAFP
image captionA male student is in critical condition after the incident

A small van has ploughed into pedestrians celebrating the new year on one of Tokyo's most famous streets.

The man driving the car fled the scene but was later arrested by police for attempted murder.

Nine people were injured, one seriously, by the attacker who struck in the Harajuku fashion district shortly after midnight.

The street, which was sealed off to traffic, was packed with people heading to a shrine for New Year's prayers.

The 21-year-old driver of the van was identified as Kazuhiro Kusakabe.

Police told broadcaster NHK that he initially told them he had conducted a terrorist act, but then later claimed it was related to executions. It was not clear if he was referring to a specific execution or capital punishment in general.

Kyodo news agency cites investigative sources saying a tank of kerosene had been found in his car and that he had allegedly planned to set the vehicle on fire.

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Takeshita Street in Shibuya ward is a popular shopping area known for its quirky fashion and youth culture. It also attracts international tourists in large numbers.

NHK footage showed the van with a smashed front and paramedics carrying the injured on stretchers into ambulances.

Eight people were hit by the car. One of them, a male student, is in a critical condition in hospital.

A ninth person was assaulted by the driver after he got out of the vehicle, local media reported.

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