TOKYO — A man dressed in a Joker costume and brandishing a knife stabbed at least one passenger on a Tokyo commuter train before starting a fire, injuring passengers and sending people scrambling to escape and jumping from windows, police and witnesses said.
The Tokyo Fire Department said 17 passengers were injured, including three seriously. Not all of them were stabbed and most of the other injuries were not serious, the fire department said.
The attacker, whom police identified as 24-year-old Kyota Hattori, was arrested on the spot after Sunday’s attack and was being investigated on suspicion of attempted murder, the Tokyo metropolitan police department said Monday.
The attacker, riding an express train headed to Tokyo’s Shinjuku station, abruptly took out a knife and stabbed a seated passenger — a man in his 70s — in the right chest, police said. Injury details of other 16 passengers are still being investigated, police said.
Police said he told authorities that he wanted to kill people and get the death penalty. Nippon Television said he also said that he used an earlier train stabbing case as an example.
Witnesses told police that the attacker was wearing a bright outfit — a green shirt, a blue suit and a purple coat — like the Joker villain in Batman comics or someone going to a Halloween event, according to media reports.
A video posted by a witness on social media showed the suspect seated, with his leg crossed and smoking in one of the train cars, presumably after the attack.
Tokyo police officials said the attack happened inside the Keio train near the Kokuryo station.
Television footage showed a number of firefighters, police officials and paramedics rescuing the passengers, many of whom escaped through train windows. In one video, passengers were running from another car that was in flames.
NHK said the suspect, after stabbing passengers, poured a liquid resembling oil from a plastic bottle and set fire, which partially burned seats.
Shunsuke Kimura, who filmed the video, told NHK that he saw passengers desperately running and while he was trying to figure out what happened, he heard an explosive noise and saw smoke wafting. He also jumped from a window but fell on the platform and hurt his shoulder.
“Train doors were closed and we had no idea what was happening, and we jumped from the windows,” Kimura said. “It was horrifying.”
The attack was the second involving a knife on a Tokyo train in three months.
In August, the day before the Tokyo Olympics closing ceremony, a 36-year-old man stabbed 10 passengers on a commuter train in Tokyo in a random burst of violence. The suspect later told police that he wanted to attack women who looked happy.
While shooting deaths are rare in Japan, the country has had a series of high-profile knife killings in recent years.
In 2019, a man carrying two knives attacked a group of schoolgirls waiting at a bus stop just outside Tokyo, killing two people and injuring 17 before killing himself. In 2018, a man killed a passenger and injuring two others in a knife attack on a bullet train. In 2016, a former employee at a home for the disabled killed 19 people and injured more than 20.