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Japan: 2 dead after shooting at army training range

June 14, 2023

An 18-year-old trainee at the Japan Self-Defence Force shot three soldiers at a firing range, according to officials. He was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

Members of Self-Defense Force gather at Hino Kihon Shagekijo, Self-Defense Force facility shooting range in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture on June 14, 2023
The shooting occurred at approximately 9 a.m. local time in Hino City, located in Gifu prefecture at an SDF shooting rangeImage: Yasushi Kanno/AP Photo/picture alliance

A Japanese soldier has been arrested for allegedly shooting and killing two and injuring one of his instructors at an army base, officials said on Wednesday.

The suspect, identified as an 18-year-old serving in the Japan Self-Defence Force (SDF), joined the military in April.

According to local law enforcement, the alleged perpetrator was immediately apprehended by fellow soldiers at the scene.

He has been charged with the attempted murder of a 25-year-old soldier, local police said.

The suspect "fired a rifle at the victim with the intent to kill," a police spokesman told the French news agency AFP.

Aerial footage aired by local media displayed a gathering of military personnel and civilians near an emergency vehicle while the police maintained roadblocks in the vicinity.

Army investigating incident

Hirokazu Matsuno, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, said the incident unfolded at approximately 9 a.m. local time at an SDF shooting range where several soldiers were participating in a training exercise in Hino City, located in the Gifu prefecture. 

"This kind of incident is absolutely unforgivable for an organization tasked with handling weapons, and I take it very seriously," Ground Self Defense Force chief of staff Yasunori Morishita said. 

Japan's army verified that two of the injured individuals were pronounced dead upon arrival at a hospital.

An SDF spokesperson said a total of eight shots were fired during the incident. 

Local media NHK confirmed that there were no reports of any civilian casualties.

An aerial photo shows Japan Ground Self Defense Force personnel and office officers near Hino Kihon Shagekijo
An SDF spokesperson said a total of eight shots were fired during the incidentImage: Naoki Ueda/AP Photo/picture alliance

Recent incidents of violence shake Japan

Japan, with strict gun control laws, has been known for its safety, but recently some high-profile incidents of violence have rattled the Asian country. 

During an election campaign event in April, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida narrowly escaped harm when a suspect hurled a pipe bomb.

In July 2022, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated by a shooter using a homemade firearm.

ss/fb (AP, AFP, Reuters)