(CNN) — The suspect in a lethal shooting and stabbing attack in Japan remains barricaded inside a building in Nakano City, hours after the rare spate of violence left three dead on Thursday, according to local police.
Police received a call in the late afternoon local time with reports that a “man stabbed a woman,” a Nakano City police official told CNN.
When officers rushed to the scene, the suspect fired something resembling a hunting rifle, striking four people, before barricading himself inside a building, the official added.
The suspect was wearing a camouflage hat, top and bottoms with sunglasses and a mask, according to NHK.
At least one woman has since escaped from the building where the man is in hiding, Nakano City’s police spokesman later told CNN. Authorities suspect that there are more people inside the building, which is the home of a local politician. Police said the politician is not at his home and is uninjured.
The spokesman added that forces are investigating reports a gunshot-like sound was heard near the scene hours after the attack.
Among the casualties is a woman in her 40s, who was been taken to hospital where she was subsequently pronounced dead. Two police officers have also died from their injuries, NHK reported. The officers were aged 46 and 61, according to police.
Nakano City urged citizens to stay indoors in a statement posted onto social media, and the city police spokesman told CNN that authorities had designated an “evacuation zone” with a radius of 300 meters around the scene of the incident.
An evacuation center was later opened at the gymnasium of a middle school in Nakano City, according to a spokesman from Nakano City’s Crisis Management Division. Local officials are providing shelter, blankets, food, drinks, to around 60 people who have evacuated there.
Gun violence is extremely rare in Japan, a country of 125 million people. It has one of the lowest rates of gun crimes in the world due to its extremely strict gun control laws.
However, Japan was rocked by a shooting last year that reverberated around the world.
Shinzo Abe, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, was shot dead during a campaign speech in Nara in July.
His murder sent shock waves through Japan and the international community, and also sparked questions about whether enough security was in place to protect him despite Japan’s track record for being a safe place.
Getting hold of a firearm in Japan is extremely difficult and the suspect in Abe’s shooting used a homemade weapon.
In 2022, nine incidents involving firearms took place in Japan including Abe’s assassination, one down from the previous year, according to the National Police Agency.
Of the nine incidents, six are believed to have been committed by gangs and other groups. In total, four people were killed and two injured in the nine incidents.
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